Watching a rerun of Moneyball would actually be a good precursor to the offseason for those not familiar with the Athletics. They made a run at Edwin Encarnacion, but ultimately had to settle for much less. They added some under the radar names to fill in some holes around the diamond, but none of them will really excite the typical fantasy owner. Still, some of them have a chance to make an impact on the fantasy scene and they may even be good enough to make the A’s contenders.
Just like in the movie, all of them have warts that made them unwanted by the halves. What the A’s know is that they can be productive if inserted into the right situation. If you get the right combination of unsung players they can perform like good ones. Obviously, the A’s are not the traditional sort of team with high profile players.
Top Draft Picks
There are no traditional top picks in the draft on this roster, but there might be some that perform like them. Ryon Healy hit 13 home runs and drove in 37 runs in a little less than half a season. If he continues on that pace he will hit close to 30 home runs and drive in around 80 runs in a full season. He will be the designated hitter next year, but he will be third base eligible. Those numbers would make him good enough to be a fantasy regular.
Left fielder Khris Davis flew right under the radar to the tune of 42 home runs and 102 RBI last season. He’s a high strikeout low batting average guy, but when you can bring in three of the five major categories you are still good enough to start. It may be a bit much to expect 40+ home runs again, but he should be good for 30 home runs and 90 RBI.
High Upside Sleepers
The highest draft pick should probably be Marcus Semien. Unfortunately for Semien, there are quite a few high profile shortstops above him on the draft list. However, there aren’t many that combine 20+ home run power with the ability to steal ten or more bases. He’s gotten a little better in each of the past three seasons, so it is fair to expect him to continue to move forward. If that happens he should be a top ten shortstop.
Fantasy owners have notoriously short memories. Sonny Gray suffered through an injury riddled 2016 season, but his peripheral statistics were better than what his final numbers said. His DRA (deserved run average) was 3.92 versus his actual 5.69. Fangraphs has their own ERA estimator called SIERA. Their SIERA lands him at 4.32. None of those are star quality numbers, but they are good enough to get drafted.
High Downside Busts
You have to be highly thought of in order to be a potential busts. That’s the good thing about having a roster like the Athletics. So, any name we come up must be tempered with the realization is that they aren’t really a bust. That being said, some fans may be a little high on Rajai Davis given that he figured prominently in the postseason for the Indians and is penciled in as the everyday center fielder for the A’s. This is particular true given the fact that he is the defending AL stolen base champ.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of things going against him. First and foremost, he will be 36 years at the beginning of 2017. He is already defied the odds in terms of speed for older players. Occasionally, guys do that. Davey Lopes was able to continue as a speed threat into his forties, but that doesn’t happen very often. More importantly, the A’s are not a running team. As one of the sabermetrically minded teams, they tend to believe that running creates unnecessary outs. He’ll run some, but he might end up closer to 20 steals.
The Closer Situation
At the moment, Ryan Madson is penciled in as the closer and since he saved 30 games a season ago he would seem to be a pretty good bet. That being said, the A’s have three former closers in the pen to back him up should he stumble. Out of the three, Santiago Casilla has had the most recent success in that role. He saved 31 games last season for the Giants, but he also blew nine saves. He went 38 for 44 in that role in 2015.
Sean Doolittle saved 22 games for the A’s in 2014, but has been used as a setup guy since then. He seems to have settled in as a setup guy, so it would seem that he would not be the choice to go to should they need to replace Madson. John Axford was also a closer at one time, but that seems like a lifetime ago. So, it would appear to be between Madson and Casilla.
Impact Minor Leaguers
Franklin Barreto is the top rated prospect in the A’s system and he plays a potential position of need at second base. Like Semien, he has some pop in his bat and some speed to use on the base paths. Jed Lowrie is one of the more brittle players in the league, so he could get an opportunity sometime midseason. He had a cup of coffee in AAA last season, so he should start there.
Third baseman Matt Chapman combined for 36 home runs last season between AA and AAA. Trevor Plouffe and Healy both play third base, so first base would seem to be a more natural position for him. He’s a low batting average guy with a lot of swing and miss in his game, but he has good patience, so he could stick as a Chris Carter type.
In two seasons as their regular shortstop, Marcus Semien has committed a league high 56 errors. Most advanced fielding metrics register him as nearly average though.