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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Oakland Athletics

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After two straight American League West titles and two straight ALDS losses to the Tigers, it appears that Athletics general manager Billy Beane's "stuff" still doesn't work in the playoffs. It may not work particularly well in Fantasy either. Though Beane's squad had more than enough power and pitching to earn a postseason berth, they were short on elite players and well-rounded talents who are sought out by Fantasy owners.

Consistent with their reputation for exploiting market inefficiencies, the A's were led by an overlooked 27-year-old catcher-turned-third baseman (Josh Donaldson), a 33-year-old outfielder who finally turned in his first 20-20 season (Coco Crisp), an injury-prone shortstop who managed to deliver a full season's worth of games (Jed Lowrie), a platoon first baseman (Brandon Moss) and a 40-year-old contact pitcher (Bartolo Colon). Yoenis Cespedes, probably the most recognizable Fantasy entity coming into 2013, couldn't clear the bar he set as a rookie, when he was a top 20 Rotisserie outfielder. Difficulties in making contact helped to shave 52 points off Cespedes' batting average, as he languished with a .240 mark and No. 33 ranking among Roto outfielders.

2014 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

Despite the team's collective success, you could easily get through the first three or four rounds of your upcoming mixed league drafts without seeing a single Athletic go off the board. Still, Donaldson and Cespedes are legitimate early-round options (if not the very early rounds), and Crisp and Moss can be targeted in the middle rounds, particularly in Roto leagues. Colon is out of the picture, having signed with the Mets this offseason, but Sonny Gray and A.J. Griffin are solid candidates for your mixed league rotation. New closer Jim Johnson is also an appropriate pick for the middle rounds. Lowrie, outfielder Josh Reddick, catcher John Jaso and starting pitchers Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily are all players worthy of late-round fliers.

The A's did lose a few key pieces from their 96-win team, but they found solid replacements during the offseason. Colon and closer Grant Balfour departed via free agency, but Beane signed Scott Kazmir and traded for Johnson to take over for them. Kazmir is another name to add to your late-round sleeper list after completing a successful campaign with the Indians last year. The team also added bullpen depth by trading outfielder Seth Smith to the Padres for Luke Gregerson, and they maintained their outfield depth by acquiring Craig Gentry from the Rangers.

Fantasy teams don't usually face the same payroll constraints that the A's do, so they don't have to mimic the franchise's no-stars approach. That said, the organization still offers plenty of players who can help Fantasy owners win a title this coming season, if not the centerpieces to build a team around.

Injury-risk sleeper No. 1 ... Scott Kazmir, starting pitcher

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Coco Crisp CF
2. Josh Donaldson 3B
3. Jed Lowrie SS
4. Yoenis Cespedes LF
5. Brandon Moss 1B
6. Josh Reddick RF
7. John Jaso DH
8. Alberto Callaspo 2B
9. Stephen Vogt C
Bench Nick Punto IF
Bench Craig Gentry OF

Kazmir gave us a nice comeback story last year, just by virtue of cracking the Indians' rotation and staying there through the end of the season. What he accomplished, especially from late June on, was actually much more impactful than simply winning and keeping a job. Kazmir gave owners strikeouts all year long, and his 4.04 ERA and 1.32 WHIP obscure how dominant he was over his final 18 starts. Over that three month-plus stretch, he posted a 3.06 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, as he threw more than two-thirds of his pitches for strikes and recovered from poor early luck with hits on balls in play. As long as Kazmir doesn't revert to his prior history of injuries and wildness, he has a shot at pitching like a top 30 starter.

Injury-risk sleeper No. 2 ... John Jaso, catcher

Jaso's first season in Oakland got off to a slow start, as he hit just .252 with one home run through the end of May. His Fantasy owners didn't get to enjoy the fruits of a midseason revival for long, as Jaso's year was done for good on July 24 when he was concussed as a result of taking foul tips off his mask in back-to-back games. Any time a player returns from a concussion, it's a risk to assume they can pick up where they left off, but Jaso is in a situation that is as close to ideal as possible. He will spend most of his time as the designated hitter, spared from the rigors and injury risks of catching, and assuming he is healthy, Jaso should be able to amass more than his previous career high of 404 plate appearances. Given that you may be able to get the likes of Geovany Soto, Alex Avila or Welington Castillo off waivers in a two-catcher mixed league, it's worth giving Jaso a try with a late-round pick, as there is minimal cost if he doesn't work out. If all goes well, he could provide a decent batting average and power with a high on-base percentage.

Bust ... Jed Lowrie, shortstop

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Jarrod Parker RHP
2. Scott Kazmir LHP
3. A.J. Griffin RHP
4. Sonny Gray RHP
5. Dan Straily RHP
ALT Drew Pomeranz LHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Jim Johnson RHP
2. Luke Gregerson RHP
3. Ryan Cook RHP
4. Sean Doolittle LHP
5. Jesse Chavez RHP

As part of a crowded infield situation a year ago, Lowrie headed into spring training looking poised for a utility role, but he emerged as the starting shortstop. Then Lowrie did something unprecedented, turning in a full season in a regular role. He finally answered the question, "What could Lowrie do if he could just stay healthy for a full season?", and the answer was to his owners' liking. Hitting .290 with 15 home runs, 75 RBI and 80 runs, Lowrie finished fourth in standard Head-to-Head scoring among shortstops and seventh in Rotisserie value. Lowrie was aided by his career-high batting average and 45 doubles, which were partially boosted by a drop in strikeouts but also by a 28 percent line drive rate. That's more than 10 percentage points higher than his rates from each of his three previous seasons, and it has regression written all over it. Health permitting, Lowrie should be able to provide 15-plus homers for the third straight season, but don't be surprised to see his batting average and doubles total plunge. Despite his lofty rankings from 2013, Lowrie is best viewed as a late-round option this spring.

Prospects Report

Addison Russell's stock has been enhanced by his rankings on top prospects lists, and he put up stats in the California League that back up the hype. Then again, lots of hitters do in that hitter-friendly circuit, but Russell's home park in Stockton is not an especially favorable environment. The 20-year-old shortstop could bring his power-speed combination to Oakland sometime this season, making him worthy of a flier in deeper leagues. ... Michael Ynoa may be the best known of the A's current pitching prospects, but Raul Alcantara is younger, fared much better after making the jump from Class A to Advanced Class A, and doesn't have Ynoa's history of elbow injuries. Both pitchers should be targeted in deeper dynasty leagues. ... Other than Russell, first baseman Maxwell Muncy is probably the prospect closest to the majors, but he may not arrive this year, and when he does debut, he may not hit for much power. ... Outfielder Billy McKinney and third baseman Renato Nunez are still working through the lower minors, but both have sufficient promise to merit a pick in dynasty formats.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Rays DH Joey Butler connects for first homer of career
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(10:32 pm ET) Designated hitter Joey Butler connected for his first-career home run Monday in the Rays' victory over the Red Sox.

Butler was called up from Triple-A on Sunday and went  1 for 3 that day in his first game of the season and then went 1 for 3 in Monday's win.

Butler spent 2014 in the Cardinals' organization, getting five at-bats (0 for 5) with the big club, and had 12 at-bats (4 for 12) for the Rangers in 2013.


Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez earns fifth save of the year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:29 pm ET) Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez worked a perfect ninth inning in Milwaukee's 4-3 win over the Dodgers on Monday, picking up his fifth save of the season.

Rodriguez made quick work of Los Angeles, needing 14 pitches for two strikeouts and a groundout to wrap things up. Rodriguez lowered his ERA to 1.80 in 10 innings of work with 12 strikeouts and two walks.


Red Sox SP Clay Buchholz's struggles continued in loss on Monday
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(10:29 pm ET) Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz's (1-4) struggles continued Monday, getting roughed up for five runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings to take the loss against the Rays. 

Buchholz surrendered two runs in the first inning and two more in the second to put the Red Sox behind 4-0 after 1 1/2 innings. 

The two second-inning runs came courtesy of a two-run homer from designated hitter Joey Butler, the first of his career. 

After a strong first start of the season, Buchholz has allowed 21 runs over his last 24 1/3 innings (7.77 ERA). 

Buchholz's next start is scheduled for Sunday in Toronto.


Rays starter Jake Odorizzi allows one run in seven IP for win
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(10:27 pm ET) Rays starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi (3-2) gave up one run on seven hits and struck out six in seven innings of work on Monday to defeat the Red Sox.

The one run allowed came in the second inning when he served up back-to-back triples to Brock Holt and Xander Bogaerts.

Odorizzi lowered his ERA to 2.21 with the outing.

Odorizzi's next start is set for Saturday against the Rangers.

Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse allows three runs in no decision Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:25 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse allowed three runs on four hits in five innings of work in Milwaukee's 4-3 win over the Dodgers on Monday, but did not factor into the decision.

Lohse started off rough, allowing a lead off home run to Joc Pederson in the first inning. Then in the fourth, Lohse put two men on for Yasmani Grandal, who singled to center to bring home a run. Juan Uribe then produced a sacrifice fly to plate another. 

Lohse, who remains 1-4, lowered his ERA to 7.01 in 34 2/3 innings of work. He will look to get back on track Saturday against the Cubs.


Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw denied win No. 100 in ND
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:25 pm ET) Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw allowed three runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings of work in Los Angeles' 4-3 loss to the Brewers on Monday.

Kershaw, looking for his 100th career win, was in cruise control through the first five innings, striking out the first four batters he faced. Then in the sixth, Kershaw surrendered back-to-back triples to Hector Gomez and Gerardo Parra, leading to a run. Then in the eighth, Kershaw gave up a solo home run to Gomez before giving up back-to-back double for another run and getting the hook.

Kershaw, who remains 1-2, moved his ERA to 3.72 in 38 2/3 innings of work. He will look for win No. 100 again on Saturday against the Rockies.


D-Backs' Yasmany Tomas asked to use more caution at third base
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(10:17 pm ET) Though Diamondbacks third baseman Yasmany Tomas made a great play at third base on Sunday, manager Chip Hale saked him to use more caution defensively. 

Tomas put his knee in front of Howie Kendrick while sliding, causing a minor injury. Tomas "tweaked" his knee, Hale said, and Hale is hoping Tomas will exercise more caution on those kind of plays moving forward. 

"It's just kind of a natural thing that he does," Hale said, via the Arizona Republic. "We just want him to stay away from injury. We'll try to get him to just make a tag and get out of there."


Nationals' Anthony Rendon diagnosed with oblique strain
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:17 pm ET) Nationals manager Matt Williams said Monday that infielder Anthony Rendon has been diagnosed with an oblique strain.

Rendon had been working his way back from a knee injury suffered in spring training before being sidelined last week with tightness in his side. He was sent back to Washington, D.C. to visit with the team doctor about his new injury.

With the new oblique issue, Rendon will have the timetable for his return set. He doesn't figure to return to action until the last half of May at the earliest.


Marlins 1B Justin Bour crushes first home run of the season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:14 pm ET) Marlins first baseman Justin Bour went 1 for 3 at the plate in Miami's 6-4 loss to the Nationals on Monday. Bour did his damage in the seventh inning when he ripped a Jordan Zimmermann pitch over the left field wall for a solo shot, his first of the season.

Bour is now hitting .583 on the year in 12 at-bats.


Nationals second baseman Ian Desmond launches home run
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:11 pm ET) Nationals second baseman Ian Desmond went 1 for 4 at the plate in Washington's 6-4 win over the Marlins on Monday.

Desmond did his damage in the eighth inning when he ripped a Bryan Morris pitch over the center field wall for a two-run shot, his second of the year. Desmond is now hitting .236 with seven RBI in 106 at-bats this season.


 
 
 
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