The team that for years enjoyed great success with a low payroll and was the inspiration for the term, "Moneyball" has finally decided to rebuild. After building a series of fringe playoff teams, GM Billy Beane has decided to blow it up and start over in 2008. Offseason trades of big names such as Dan Haren and Nick Swisher for prospects affirms Beane's dedication to rebuilding the Oakland farm system and planning for the future. I believe he made the right choice as the team's talent pool both in the majors and minors was evaporating fast and some of the young players have not panned out as expected. This is one of the most difficult fantasy previews we have done so far as it is tough to seperate the legit picks from the sleepers or busts.
Projected Positional Starters
C- Kurt Suzuki
1B- Daric Barton
2B- Mark Ellis
3B- Eric Chavez
SS- Bobby Crosby
LF- Carlos Gonzalez
CF- Emil Brown/ Chris Denorfia
RF- Travis Buck
DH- Jack Cust
Projected Starting Rotation
Closer- Houston Street
Middle Relievers - Kiki Calero, Keith Foulke, Alan Embree (Lefty specialist) Santiago Casilla, Joey Devine
Hitters to Draft
Jack Cust, DH- After years of being deemed a AAAA player, who was not athletic enough to play in the Major Leagues, Cust finally got his shot to prove he belonged last season. He hit 26HR with 82RBI in only 124 games. Cust does strike out a lot, doesn't hit for a high average and is prone to hot and cold streaks. However he can certainly slug, so expect Cust to start the year as Oakland's DH and clean up stick. He will hit a lot of HRs and is clearly the most dangerous bat in the line up.
Travis Buck, RF- I think I like Buck more than others do. He posted a good OPS last season and has had some very solid minor league seasons as well. He isn't a slugger, or a game-changing elite bat, nut I think he could develop into a solid fantasy option that can hit the occasional HR and steal a bag. I think he'll be a Jaque Jones-type player, with a better ability to get on base and higher batting average.
Pitchers to Draft
Joe Blanton, SP - Be careful with Blanton. He is the ace of the Oakland A's staff, but he is not the ace of a pitching staff. He is a fine starter, who can throw strikes, eat up innings and keep his team in a ball game. However, he is not the type of pitcher who can dominate a game and win it for his team. He is a second tier type pitcher, to be taken with guys like Gil Meche and Oliver Perez. He should be a good fantasy starter, just heed this warning and don't draft him too early come draft day. Keep in mind, the A's are going to be bad this year, very bad.
Huston Street, CL - Ugh. Injury prone closer, who the A's are looking to trade, and is a constant threat to blow out his shoulder at any time. He'll still get saves, whether he is on the A's or somewhere else. Unless of course, he blows out the aforementioned shoulder.
Player to Avoid
Bobby Crosby, SS- Injury plagued disaster, who is always overrated by fantasy owners come draft time because Billy Beane is his GM. Crosby is always hurt, however, if he manages to be healthy for an entire season 20/20 numbers are not out out of the question. That being said, it is very important to keep this in mind, Injured players do not put up any stats. You need healthy players to win. If there is one thing Crosby has proved himself incapable of doing, it's staying healthy.
Mark Ellis, 2B - Hit a career high 19HR last season and drove in 76RBI. Try to remember though, 20 of the RBIs were in September, when there are a lot of minor league pitchers getting some playing time, and stats can get inflated quickly. The 19HR were by far a career high, and are probably more of a fluke than anything consistent to get excited about. Ellis' career stats call for someone who hits about 12HR with 52RBI.
Eric Chavez, 3B - The 30 year old bottomed out in 2007, after seasons of struggling with various injuries. He had 46RBI, with 43R to go along with a .240avg. The positive is that he hit 15HR in only 341 at bats to the power is still there. Last season, Chavez was shut down in July and missed all of August and September, due to surgery on his back and BOTH his shoulders. Personally I wouldn't draft him, but I know people will based on his name. There are better third base options available.
Keith Foulke, MR- Cannot believe I am typing this. He could be inline for saves if/when Houston Street gets traded. For a team that is rebuilding this recent signing does not make a ton of sense, unless they plan on building up his value and then dealing him some where as well. The best way for Oakland to build his trade value is to get him to accumulate saves, an old trick the A's have used often.
Chris Denorfia, CF - A highly regarded 27 year old prospect, might be a bit too old, to be considered a prospect, but the A's are high on him and he is one the reasons they were willing to trade Mark Kotsay. He hits for a good average, and shows that classic Oakland A's talent to get on base at a near .400 OBP clip. He can hit for a bit of power, and can also steal a base, so he has the versatility and ability to be close to a 20/20 player. He will probably be taken very late in your draft, or might be drafted at all, so pencil him in as a late round flier to take a chance on.
Rich Harden, SP - I was really torn between putting him here or on the avoid list. I chronicled the Harden upside and downside here, and came to this conclusion. Harden may have reached the point where he is forgotten about in fantasy circles and becomes a late round pick with tremendous upside. There are always a couple of those guys every year, he looks to be this years late round flier du jour. Sure in some drafts someone will take him in the mid-rounds, however, if you can snag him late and Harden stays healthy you add an ace at virtually no cost. Personally, I would bet against him staying on the field for a full season. If he is healthy and pitching well in April/May, sell-high in a trade him and get what you can to fill needs.
Check out FSE's other team previews by clicking here and remember we will be posting a new comprehensive fantasy team preview every weekday. The following is a list of those we have completed as well as previews due to be released in the upcoming week: