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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
Royals considering eight-man bullpen
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:20 pm ET) The Royals have yet to decide on the team's final 25-man roster and are deciding between carrying an extra position player or breaking camp with an eight-man bullpen, MLB.com reports.

Manager Ned Yost would prefer to carry another outfielder, with Paulo Orlando the most likely option to fill that role.

"Probably having the extra position player [helps me]," Yost said. "You're looking at pinch-running opportunities, defensive opportunities late in games. You're looking at whatever helps you get that one run you might need to win a game."

The team doesn't want to see pitcher Ryan Madson depart, but carrying him on the initial roster would almost certainly mean using an eight-man bullpen, as the Royals don't believe he's ready to assume full-time work.

"You would like to take him on your club," Yost said. "But I still feel like he needs to be protected. ... I've really liked what I've seen. But he hasn't pitched in three years. It's all a guess. Can he be that guy [again]? Yeah. But we haven't seen him in back-to-back games. How does he rebound? We don't know."

The Royals likely won't settle on a final roster until Sunday so they can appraise the moves other teams make over the next few days.


Dodgers' Zack Greinke tweaks mechanics in minor-league start
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:13 pm ET) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke made a mechanical adjustment in the fifth inning of his minor-league start Wednesday that led to a potential breakthrough, as he induced an inning-ending ground ball and struck out the next four batters, MLB.com reports.

"I tried something with a pitch and it came out perfect," Greinke said.

Greinke allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings while striking out nine and throwing 85 pitches Wednesday.

"Not many guys can make one pitch and completely turn their game around," catcher Yasmani Grandal said. "He was like, they're not going to hit me anymore. It was a mechanical thing, [pitching coach Rick Honeycutt] said something with his face or the way he was looking."

Greinke's next start will come April 7 against the Padres in his regular-season debut.


Astros pitcher Mark Appel to start year in Double-A Corpus Christi
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:06 pm ET) Astros pitching prospect Mark Appel is expected to begin the season with Double-A Corpus Christi, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Appel, who was the team's 2013 No. 1 pick, has yet to pitch in the majors.


Report: Mets place Cesar Puello on waivers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:53 pm ET) The Mets have placed outfield prospect Cesar Puello on waivers, ESPNNewYork.com reports.

Puello isn't in line to make the Opening Day roster and is out of options, so he'll need to pass through waivers before the team can send him to the minors. He went 9 for 36 with no extra-base hits this spring.


Athletics' Jesse Chavez hints he's headed to the bullpen
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:35 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Jesse Chavez told reporters that "the writing is on the wall" and indicated that he'll likely start the season in the bullpen.

"I think they had their minds made up from the beginning. But we'll see what happens," Chavez said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Chavez allowed one run on three hits and one walk while striking out six over six innings of work on Wednesday against the Angels. He posted a 4.50 ERA, a 1.75 WHIP and 12:4 K:BB ratio over 16 innings this spring. If he is demoted to the bullpen as a long reliever and spot starter, the A's will likely go will left-hander Drew Pomeranz as their fifth starter.


Brewers choose to have Michael Blazek open season in bullpen
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:33 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Michael Blazek has won a spot in the bullpen to open the season, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Blazek was being stretched out this spring in prep for a starting assignment at Triple-A Colorado Springs, but he pitched so well the team opted to keep him on the roster.

“I don’t think it has completely hit me yet,” Blazek said Wednesday. “It probably won’t until I get (to Milwaukee). We’re still in spring training so I’ve still got that mind set.”

Blazek has held opponents to a .226 average and has struck out 18 batters in 17 1/3 innings this spring.

“They just said as of right now, you’re coming up there with us,” he said. “That’s all I really needed to hear. I know I’m going to be somewhere in the 'pen. I’m going to keep the same mind set and take it one day at a time.”


Athletics OF Josh Reddick feels fine after minor-league at-bats
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:32 pm ET) Athletics manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday that outfielder Josh Reddick took three at-bats in a minor-league game Tuesday and felt fine physically, MLB.com reports.

Reddick is recovering from an oblique injury that will cause him to open the season on the 15-day disabled list, but he may be able to return soon after the season begins.


Athletics hoping Coco Crisp (elbow) can play Opening Day
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:25 pm ET) The Athletics remain hopeful that outfielder Coco Crisp (elbow) will be healthy enough to play Opening Day, MLB.com reports.

"I think it depends on how he feels tomorrow," manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday. "I think it's going to be a pretty good indication on what we need to do."

Melvin said that Crisp was sore Wednesday, and the team will decide Thursday if he'll need to open the season on the disabled list. It's possible he'll play during the team's three-game Bay Bridge Series against the Giants, starting Thursday.

"He's really the one guy on our team that we're not worried too much about at-bats," Melvin said. "If he could play in the Bay Bridge Series, we'd be good with that. Whether he's not, I really don't know yet."

If Crisp does open the season on the disabled list, the Athletics will likely carry outfielder Billy Burns on the Opening Day roster.


Mets SP Bartolo Colon finishes spring 0-3 with 7.02 ERA
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:24 pm ET) Mets starting pitcher Bartolo Colon took the hill Wednesday against the Cardinals for one final spring outing before he starts in the season opener Monday against the Nationals. Colon allowed three runs on six hits and one walk in five innings. He struck out two in a 5-4 loss.

Colon finishes the spring with a 0-3 record and 7.02 ERA. He went 1-4 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts against the Nationals last season.


Tigers' Kyle Ryan coughs up three runs in two innings vs. Astros
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:23 pm ET) Tigers pitcher Kyle Ryan got the start and logged two innings of work Wednesday night against the Astros. Ryan, who is competing for a bullpen role, allowed three runs -- two earned -- on four hits and no walks while striking out two in a 3-2 defeat.

Ryan owns a 6.23 ERA this spring. If he fails to break camp with the club, he'll be inserted in the Triple-A rotation.

"I know there's a chance," Ryan said, per MLive.com. "All I can do is go out there and be myself and do what I do."


 
 
 
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