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2013 Fantasy outlooks: Oakland Athletics

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Three months into the 2012 season, the Athletics appeared to be on their way to a sixth straigth season without a winning record, as they stood at 37-42 heading into July. And why would anyone have expected the A's to be any better than that? Their lineup lacked recognizable stars, their rotation consisted of Bartolo Colon, Brandon McCarthy and a collection of unproven arms, and they had already gone through three closers by midsesaon.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

As it turned out, some members of that no-name lineup -- namely, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick and Brandon Moss -- produced like the middle-of-the-order hitters that they were. Colon and McCarthy both recorded ERAs below 3.50, rookies Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and A.J. Griffin were solid as well, and even journeyman Travis Blackley held his own over 15 starts. Grant Balfour settled into the closer's role over the second half, stabilizing the bullpen. It all added up to a 94-68 record, a first-place finish, and a five-game tussle in an American League Division Series that ultimately went in favor of the Tigers.

McCarthy, shortstop Stephen Drew and designated hitter Jonny Gomes departed via free agency, and second baseman/shortstop Cliff Pennington and part-time first baseman Chris Carter were dealt away, but by and large, the 2012 squad has remained intact. Cespedes, Reddick and Moss will comprise the meat of the order once again, while John Jaso was acquired from the Mariners to take over the catching duties shared by Derek Norris, George Kottaras and Kurt Suzuki a year ago. Hiroyuki Nakajima was brought in from the Seibu Lions of the Japanese Pacific League to replace Drew, though there will be a competition to determine who his double play partner will be. Scott Sizemore, who missed last season with a torn ACL, Jemile Weeks and rookie Grant Green are the leading candidates to open the 2013 season at second base. Chris Young and Jed Lowrie, both acquired via trade this offseason,.will give the A's some bench depth and the luxury of sitting their regulars with more frequency.

Brett Anderson, who came back from Tommy John surgery late last season, is the likely opening day starter, and Parker, Milone and Griffin are expected to line up behind him in the rotation. Colon won't be on the roster for opening day, as he has five games remaining on a 50-game suspension for a positive test for testosterone, but he should join the rotation soon after. Balfour will return to close out games for the A's, while Ryan Cook will fill the setup role that he held for most of last season.

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Coco Crisp CF
2. John Jaso C
3. Yoenis Cespedes LF
4. Brandon Moss 1B
5. Seth Smith DH
6. Josh Reddick RF
7. Josh Donaldson 3B
8. Scott Sizemore 2B
9. Hiroyuki Nakajima SS
Bench Chris Young OF
Bench Jed Lowrie SS

While Moss and Blackley fit the "misfit toys" mold of the Moneyball-era teams, much of the A's current roster is comprised of young talent that could only get better. In order to contend, they will need Reddick, Parker, Milone and Griffin to at least match last season's level of performance, and hope that Anderson and Cespedes can stay healthy. The team may enter the coming season with plenty of question marks, but for the first time in years, they will offer Fantasy owners a wide array of tempting options to consider on Draft Day.

Sleeper ... Josh Reddick, outfield

As a minor leaguer, Reddick was no slouch when it came to piling up extra-base hits, and in his fourth go-round in the majors last season, he finally showed off his power. There's no reason why Reddick can't have another 30-homer season in 2013, and he should be able to improve on his .242 batting average from a year ago. Reddick was a decent contact hitter in the minors, and he could easily cut back on his strikeouts. He may not hit much higher than .260, but that would still be enough to boost his run and RBI totals. Though you probably won't need to draft Reddick among the top 40 outfielders, he should give his owners that level of production.

Bust ... Jarrod Parker, starting pitcher

With a solid 3.47 ERA and 13-8 record, Parker turned in a rookie season that matched the hype he earned as a prospect. Finishing the year as a top 50 starting pitcher in Fantasy, owners may be tempted to view him as such again for 2013. While Parker's Fantasy stats were better than average, his skill indicators, such as strikeout, walk and ground ball rates, were the definition of average. Only six percent of Parker's flyballs left the yard, and even thoughg he gets the benefit of pitching home games at O.co Coliseum, that rate should be at least a couple of percentage points higher this year. Look for Parker's ERA and WHIP to rise high enough to make him a risky pick any earlier than in the late rounds in standard mixed league drafts.

Late-round flyer ... John Jaso, catcher

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Brett Anderson LHP
2. Jarrod Parker RHP
3. Tommy Milone LHP
4. A.J. Griffin RHP
5. Dan Straily RHP
ALT Bartolo Colon RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Grant Balfour RHP
2. Ryan Cook RHP
3. Sean Doolittle LHP
4. Jordan Norberto LHP
5. Chris Resop RHP

January's three-team swap involving the A's, Nationals and Mariners got attention mainly because of Seattle's acquisition of Michael Morse, but Oakland made an impact move of its own. In getting John Jaso from the Mariners, the club added an experienced catcher, which allows them to put young Derek Norris in a backup role. Unlike Norris, Jaso isn't known for his power, but he hit 10 home runs in just 294 at-bats last season. Having put up some decent power numbers at some points during his minor league career, there is reason to think that Jaso could sustain his newfound home run prowess. He has always exercised good plate discipline, so owners should expect a decent batting average and very good on-base percentage. He is a must-draft in two-catcher leagues, and as someone who should last until the late rounds of standard mixed league drafts, Jaso could turn a nice profit for the owners who draft him.

Prospects Report

Grant Green and Dan Straily have the best chance to make an impact in the majors in 2013, but both will enter spring training having to compete for a starting role. Green could be the A's regular second baseman, but he will have to topple the more established Sizemore and Weeks first. Straily has an even tougher road to make Oakland's rotation, though he could be a short-term fill-in for Colon in early April ... 2012 first-round pick Addison Russell will be in major-league camp this spring, but the 19-year-old will have time to develop in the minors while Nakajima holds down the starting shortstop job. He's a top target in long-term keeper leagues ... Outfielder Michael Choice's season ended prematurely due to a broken hand, but the on-base and power threat could arrive in the majors within a year ... Pitching prospect Sonny Gray didn't wow owners last season, but he was still plenty good at inducing grounders. He has shown enough skill to remain on the radar of owners in long-term keeper leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Pirates' Liriano showing off better health this spring
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:49 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano is glad to be healthy this spring, according to MLB.com.

Liriano had an abbreviated run in camp last season due to arm and groin injuries. Now that he's healthy, he's looking forward to working on his craft. In Thursday's start, Liriano looked good. He allowed two hits over two scoreless innings. Lirano walked one and struck out two during the outing. 

Afterward, Liriano said his goal was to work on his fastball. "Working on throwing the fastball in and out, and so far so good," Liriano said. "It feels a little weird, facing hitters back in a real game, but it was good to get the first one out of the way."

Manager Clint Hurdle came away impressed. "Liriano showed a good finish to his fastball, and got the ball inside. He also threw some good changeups and sliders," he said.

Liriano, 31, posted a 3.38 ERA over 162 1/3 innings last season. 


Jason Heyward hits single in spring training debut for Cardinals
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:43 pm ET) Outfielder Jason Heyward wasted no time getting his bat on the baseball in his new uniform. 

In Thursday's exhibition against the Marlins, Heyward hit a single in his first at-bat in the first inning. He scored a run, too, in St. Louis' 4-1 win. 

"It's good to play baseball," Heyward said, per MLB.com. "[It's a] fresh start in so many ways this year."

Heyward went 1-for-2 in the afternoon. He was traded to the Cardinals from the Braves last November. 


Athletics' Barry Zito gives up two runs in return
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:29 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Barry Zito allowed two runs in his return to the mound on Thursday.

Zito, who did not pitch in the majors last season, is attempting a comeback with the A's. He's considered a long shot for the rotation, but could be used in a relief role based on how he performs this spring. 

In his first start, Zito gave up two runs on two hits over two innings. He struck out two, but did not issue any walks during the outing. Zito's big mistake was a changeup to Mike Olt in the second inning. Other than that, he was solid.

Zito, 36, posted a 5.74 ERA over 133 1/3 innings in 2013. 


Marlins' Derek Dietrich (ankle) makes spring debut
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:28 pm ET) Marlins infielder Derek Dietrich made his spring debut Thursday, striking out and getting hit by a pitch in his two trips to the plate.

Dietrich was shut down in winter ball after suffering an ankle injury. He hit .228/.326/.386 with five home runs, 17 RBI and one stolen base in 158 at-bats with the Marlins last season. He'll compete for a reserve role but is blocked at second base after the team acquired Dee Gordon this offseason.


Cubs' Kyle Schwarber hits grand slam on Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:24 pm ET) Cubs prospect Kyle Schwarber belted a grand slam on Thursday against the Giants.

Schwarber didn't wait long, knocking in all four runs in the second inning. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Schwarber clobbered a pitch from Ryan Vogelsong, sending it out to right field. The 22-year-old is expected to begin the season in the minors, but is one of the team's top prospects. While he may not receive a promotion until late in the season, Schwarber could draw interest on the trade market if the Cubs decide to go all in at the deadline. 


Braves P Julio Teheran exorcises previous spring training demons
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:21 pm ET) Braves pitcher Julio Teheran still remembers the 2012 spring training game when he gave up six home runs in two innings against the Tigers. 

Therefore, scheduled to pitch against the Tigers on Thursday, he refused to use the same bullpen at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla. that he did during that disastrous outing.

"I don't really think about that," Teheran said, per MLB.com. "I know some guys make fun of that, and I do too. It's just something that happened before."

On Thursday, Teheran fared much better in a 6-4 Braves victory. 

Teheran gave up one run during his first spring start of the season. He threw 36 pitches with 25 going for strikes. 

"I was controlling all of my pitches," Teheran said. "That was my goal today. I think the ball was coming out pretty good from my hands. I think that is where I want to be."


Diamondbacks' Trevor Cahill shows off new mechanics
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:06 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Trevor Cahill showed off his new mechanics against the Rockies on Thursday. 

Cahill gave up two hits and one walk over two scoreless innings of work. The 27-year-old came into camp competing for a spot in the rotation, but has impressed thus far. In order to make the club, Cahill overhauled his mechanics. After his first start, he came away encouraged. 

"I could definitely tell there is some stuff," Cahill said. "Just where I have to set my sights on pitches has to change a little bit, because the ball doesn't run as much."

Cahill posted a 5.61 ERA over 110 2/3 innings last season. 


Brewers Scooter Gennett looking to prove himself
(7:05 pm ET) Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett knows that he must improve against left-handed pitching, per the team's official website.

"I'm very eager," said Gennett. "For me, I'm not eager about showing or proving [that I can hit lefties], but just for myself, being able to play and have fun every day and get in there every day and crack lefties. That's part of the game -- you don't want to [sit] out. It's back to what I'm used to, and I'm really looking forward to it." 

He didn't face one left-handed starting pitcher last year.  When batting against southpaw relievers in 2014, he went 4-for-39.  Gennett is 10-for-78 against lefties.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said this about Gennett's struggles.

"For me, you can't hit lefties unless you can get hit by them," Gennett said, "which means, if there's a guy throwing 97 [mph] and slinging it in there, the only way I'm going to hit him is if I stand in there willing to stay in there and wear one in the neck or the shoulder or the ribs. That's what you have to do to hit lefties. So that's the one thing I worry about -- don't be a scaredy cat and get out of the way, and I'll be all right."

Gennett, 24, has a career batting average of .300 going into his third season with the Brewers.


Indians' Yan Gomes' first hit of spring goes for home run
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:04 pm ET) Indians catcher Yan Gomes' first hit of the spring came on a two-run home run during Cleveland's 9-3 Cactus League win over the Reds. 

Gomes went yard in the fifth inning off of Reds pitcher Burke Badenhop. 

Thursday's showing was a good sign that Gomes is picking up where he left off in 2014, when he recorded a batting average of .278 and hit 21 home runs. 


Indians OF Michael Brantley goes hitless in spring debut
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:04 pm ET) Indians outfielder Michael Brantley (back) went 0 for 3 in his spring debut Thursday against the Reds.

Manager Terry Francona said Monday that Brantley was expected to make his debut Thursday, and the outfielder was able to play after dealing with a sore lower back earlier this spring. He hit .327/.385/.506 with 20 home runs, 97 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 611 at-bats last season.


 
 
 
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