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2011 A's Preview: Reconstructed Outfield

Jason Brown

Jason Brown

Jason Brown writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

2011 Oakland A's Team Preview

The A's once again struggled to keep what few solid pieces exist healthy for the duration of the season, and once again struggled to score runs by getting minimal production from veterans like Kevin Kouzmanoff, Kurt Suzuki and Mark Ellis. A few starters took major strides forward, and a healthy season from Brett Anderson would anchor what could be among the best rotations in the American League. An offseason focus was to beef up the offense, and the A's were relatively successful in doing so. They'll enter the season as one of the more improved teams on paper, and keeping them all healthy could have the A's a surprise by season's end.

Offseason Moves:

Released 3B Akinori Iwamura; Lost LF Jeremy Hermida, 1B Jeff Larish and LF Gabe Gross, DH Eric Chavez, RHP Justin Duchscherer, RHP Ben Sheets, OF Travis Buck, DH Jack Cust via free agency.

There are plenty of names on the list, but Cust is the only one that has contributed in recent years. The fact that the A's cut ties with Cust, given their desperate need for power, was an early indicator of the A's desire to be active in the free agent/trade market during the winter.

Traded OF Rajai Davis to Toronto to minor-leaguers P Danny Farquhar and P Trystan Magnuson.

Davis perfomed as expected in 2010, swiping 50 bases, but his poor OBP (just .320) did little to drive the A's offense, and he was effectively flipped to open up a spot in the outfield for the troika of outfield/DH bats (DeJesus, Willingham, Matsui) that the A's would add in the offseason.

Acquired RF David DeJesus from Kansas City for LHP Justin Marks and RHP Vin Mazzaro.

The A's first major addition of the winter, DeJesus was brought in to be an upgrade over Ryan Sweeney. He's not a major force in the middle of the order, but he's better than any options the A's trotted out there the year prior. Going from Kansas City to Oakland doesn't figure to do DeJesus any favors at the plate, meaning a 10 HR/10 SB season may be his upside.

Acquired LF Josh Willingham for RHP Henry Rodriguez and CF Corey Brown.

Willingham showed good power and patience for the Nationals in 2010 before a knee injury limited his effectiveness and ultimately ended his season. He gives the A's a 20-HR threat, something they sorely lacked, though his injury history is worrisome given the A's team-wide injury woes in recent years.

Signed P Rich Harden, P Brandon McCarthy, DH Hideki Matsui, RP Grant Balfour, 3B Andy LaRoche, and RP Brian Fuentes as free agents.

The A's did a nice job filling out the roster via free agency. Matsui gives them another 20-25 HR threat, and Balfour and Fuentes were solid additions to what figures to be an excellent and deep bullpen. A few lottery tickets in Harden and McCarthy will compete this spring for a spot at the end of the A's rotation, and LaRoche gives the A's another option should Kevin Kouzmanoff struggle again.

Projected Lineup/Rotation:

Lineup

1. Coco Crisp CF
2. Daric Barton 1B
3. David DeJesus RF
4. Josh Willingham LF
5. Hideki Matsui DH
6. Kurt Suzuki C
7. Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
8. Cliff Pennington SS
9. Mark Ellis 2B

Rotation

1. Brett Anderson
2. Trevor Cahill
3. Gio Gonzalez
4. Dallas Braden
5. Brandon McCarthy/Rich Harden/Josh Outman/Tyson Ross/Bobby Cramer

CL: Andrew Bailey

Notes of import, fantasy and otherwise

Who closes if Andrew Bailey gets hurt again?

Bailey was sidelined for six weeks last season, leading to Michael Wuertz (six) and Craig Breslow (five) picking up saves along the way. While Bailey's expected to be ready for Opening Day and will close when healthy, there's some hidden value in the A's bullpen given manager Bob Geren's propensity to look at other options at the first sign of trouble. Complicating things this year is the addition of Brian Fuentes, and the expected return to health of Joey Devine. Zeroing in on one guy early in the spring is tough to do, but Bailey likely won't be the only A's reliever worth owning at years' end so you'd be wise to stash a few of the names above on your bench and as end-game fillers.

Sleepers:

Josh Outman- Outman is back and healthy for the first time since the middle of the 2009 season, having missed the entire 2010 campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery. There was some ability to miss bats prior to being injured coming up through the Philadelphia system, as well as 72 Ks in 93 major-league innings. The fifth spot in the A's rotation will be more attractive than most, and Outman seems to have the inside track as spring opens.

Tyson Ross- Like Outman, Ross is healthy following an injury-shortened 2010 season in which Ross pitched out the A's bullpen at the season's outset only to be returned to the minors to transition back to the rotation. The transition lasted just six starts before a strained elbow ended his season, but he managed 30 Ks in those 25.1 innings.

Joey Devine - Devine's been sidelined for the past two seasons due to rehab complications from Tommy John surgery, but his last healthy season was a good one (45.2 IP, 23 hits, 15 walks, 49 Ks). The A's bullpen has gotten significantly deeper since Devine last pitched, making it harder to quickly ascend the ladder, but a healthy Devine could be a major surprise out of the A's bullpen this season.

Roster

Here's the rundown of players not mentioned above:

Kurt Suzuki (C) - Suzuki has the lethal combination of poor production and lots of at-bats for those in OBP/SLG leagues, racking up OPS totals of .716, .734 and .669 the past three seasons, averaging about 530 at-bats a season. That's a sinkhole for you. Those fortunate to play in 4x4 or 5x5 leagues will enjoy his 15 HR/70 RBI potential, and he'll be hitting behind the A's offseason additions so the RBI potential should remain.

Landon Powell (C) - Powell failed to show any power in a backup role to Kurt Suzuki, which had been his only calling card thus far. He faces pressure from Josh Donaldson now as well.

Josh Donaldson (C) - 18 bombs and 45 walks in 86 games at Triple-A Sacramento makes Donaldson a better reserve option than the aforementioned Powell, though the contract extension handed to Suzuki this past summer will keep Donaldson on the bench for the most part.

Daric Barton (1B) - Barton battled injuries for most of the season, but still managed 110 walks and a .393 OBP in 159 games. He doesn't fit the profile of the standard slugging first baseman, but should be in line for oodles of runs scored hitting ahead of the A's three big additions this winter.

Mark Ellis (2B) - Ellis has managed to hit just .270 or higher just twice in the past five years despite a career .268 average. His decent power/speed game of his youth has all but been left behind, leaving a second baseman fully capable of hitting around .240 for the season with something like seven homers and six steals. Yikes.

Cliff Pennington (SS) - Pennington's 29 steals was the extent of his value in 2010, and 2011 figures to be more of the same. It gives him a leg up on other shortshops that do nothing well however, so don't forget about him if you find your team with plenty of power but short on steals.

Kevin Kouzmanoff (3B) - Returns as the A's third baseman, but it wasn't for lack of trying to land a replacement. Kouzmanoff's season was a disaster for those in OBP/SLG leagues, as he contributed a .679 OPS from a power position over 551 at-bats. He'll slide down the A's lineup this season, and probably should have been non-tendered if not for the complete lack of other options available to the A's internally.

Adam Rosales (IF) - Rosales played all over the field last year, but amassed just 20 games or more at just second base (despite five or more games everywhere else but catcher). He's either a marginally valuable reserve option or a useless second base-only eligible type depending on your league specifics.

Coco Crisp (CF) - Crisp battled through multiple injuries last season, delaying the start to his season to late May and ending it mid-September. He was a roto beast in between, swatting eight homers, driving in 38 runs, scoring 51 times and stealing 32 bases in 75 games. To get an idea on how good that was, that's a 17-76-102 and 64 steal season prorated to 150 games. Staying healthy has never been Crisp's forte, and the A's training staff isn't exactly known for quick returns in recent years either. There's all sorts of upside here if he can stay healthy, as he'll hit atop an improved A's lineup with a manager that's given him the green light to steal at will.

Ryan Sweeney (OF) - Sweeney was hitting an ‘empty' .294 (one homer, one steal) when his season was cut short with a knee injury. The A's focus to improve their offense this winter relegates Sweeney to nothing more than a reserve role, though it should be noted that outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart have "Fragile. Handle With Care" stamped on their backs.

Connor Jackson (OF) - Acquired from the Diamondbacks mid-season, Jackson hardly played for the A's due to a slew of injuries including a season-ending sports hernia. He's buried on the A's outfield depth chart, though he could see occasional time at first base in the event of a Daric Barton injury.

Brett Anderson (SP) - Elbow concerns kept Anderson sidelined for much of the first half, picking up just six starts prior to the All-Star break. His strikeout rate dipped noticeably upon his return, fanning just 53 batters over his final 81.2 innings in what was perhaps a concession to his balky elbow and fewer sliders as a result. He's an elite starter when healthy, though he may come a little cheaper at the table this season sitting behind the breakout seasons from teammates Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez.

Trevor Cahill (SP) - "Holy Breakout, Batman!" Cahill went from a mid-rotation starter with so-so control to an 18-game winner and a sub-3.00 ERA. There's still some concern here though, with so-so peripherals (118 Ks and 63 walks in 196.2 IP) that only regressed as the season progressed (55:35 ratio in 101.2 IP after the All-Star break). A small step back in all but assured with those numbers, though an improved A's bullpen and offense should prevent a complete collapse.

Gio Gonzalez (SP) - Gonzalez posted 15 wins and 171 Ks in his breakout season, thanks in large part to just 15 homers allowed and a tidy .283 BABIP. There's some warning signs here (in addition to the BABIP figure), namely a few month-by-month WHIPs of 1.472, 1.584 and 1.545 sandwiched around his outstanding August. Like Cahill, he's a good bet to regress a bit but his Ks will make it easier to stomach in most league formats.

Dallas Braden (SP) - The list of starters in the AL that have maintained an ERA around 3.65 for the past 52 starts is a short one, but Braden is one of them. His peripherals don't suggest the run of luck should continue, but an improved A's offense and bullpen should mask some of the decline.

Michael Wuertz (RP) - Wuertz was unable to repeat his solid 2009 season, thanks largely to a dip in his K:BB and K/9 rates. He's battling shoulder injuries again this spring, which also delayed the start to his 2010 season last year, and finds himself in a pretty deep A's bullpen that figures to cut down on his late inning appearances.

Craig Breslow (RP) - Breslow had some late-season value with both Andrew Bailey and Michael Wuertz sidelined, but he's proven to be an effective reliever even when not picking up the occasional save. He's allowed just 90 hits over his last 130 innings pitches in the majors and whiffs close to a batter an inning. The addition of Fuentes figures to slide Breslow down a notch, but there's still some value here as an end-game option.

Top Prospects

Chris Carter (1B/OF) - The A's offseason moves block Carter for the short-term, but he should emerge at some point during the season if he can manage to avoid his troublesome slow starts. The power projects well; the batting average and contact rate not so much.

Grant Green (SS) - Green's first full professional season was a huge success at the plate (.318/.363/.520 at High-A) but fielding problems makes one wonder if he'll need to shift over to second base down the road. He's expected to play most of the year at Double-A Midland, and projects well from a fantasy perspective at either middle infield spot.

Michael Choice (OF) - The A's grabbed Choice with the 10th overall pick in the June draft, and he showed excellent power in his professional debut (.284/.388/.627 in 27 games), though he also fanned 45 times in those 109 at-bats. It's expected that he'll start the year at High-A Stockton, and his power profile makes him a potential fantasy contributor down the road.