2016 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Oakland Athletics
Spring Training is here, players have reported, and there are a few changes to Oakland’s roster. While the A’s are projected to finish last in the division, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of fantasy players worth drafting. With plenty of youth in both the lineup and rotation, the Oakland Athletics fantasy impact will be determined far more by upside than stable consistency. Without further ado, let’s take a swing at the projected team for the 2016 A’s.
- Billy Burns CF
- Jed Lowrie 2B
- Billy Butler DH
- Josh Reddick RF
- Khris Davis LF
- Danny Valencia 3B
- Stephen Vogt C
- Yonder Alonso 1B
- Marcus Semien SS
Billy Burns is one of my favorite values of 2016. His ADP is around No. 160 overall (44th among OF), but he has elite speed (26 SB in 2015, 10th in MLB) at a time when SBs are hard to find. Some regression in batting average is expected after Burns hit a surprising .294 last year, and look for his homers (five in 2015) to go down considering he hit 2 in over 1,500 ABs in the minors. Look for a line of .285/2 HR/75 R/45 RBI/35 SB with 40+ SB being a real possibility (Draft in Rounds 13-14).
Jed Lowrie is too much of an injury risk, with very little upside (Draft in AL-Only leagues).
Josh Reddick sacrificed a little power in 2015 to increase his contact rate, making him a far more well-rounded player. Look for a repeat season in 2016 with slightly better counting stats and a line of .275/22 HR/72 R/80 RBI/8 SB (Draft in Rounds 18-19).
Danny Valencia is a capable veteran that has a nice amount of power that can be had late. Look for him to have a line like .270/16 HR/65 R/72 RBI/1 SB (Draft late in standard mixed).
Stephen Vogt is coming back from injury but is expected to be ready by Opening Day. He’s a top-10 catcher with good pop and an average that won’t hurt you, and his ADP (near No. 180) makes him a great value. Look for a line of .265/20 HR/62 R/80 RBI/0 SB if he stays healthy (Draft in Rounds 16-17).
Yonder Alonso looks to be healthy going into 2016, and should win the 1B job this Spring over Mark Canha. However, regardless of who wins, it is possible that a platoon could exist, with the A’s going with the hot bat of the moment. That situation makes Alonso and Canha low values on draft day (Draft as fliers in AL-Only).
Jesse Hahn and Jarrod Parker are both coming into the season with injuries (Hahn – Forearm & Parker – Elbow), and neither are expected to get enough innings to be fantasy relevant, though Hahn’s numbers are likely to be consistent with last season’s when he does pitch (3.35 ERA/1.17 WHIP). Monitor use in AL-Only leagues, but that’s it.
Rich Hill hasn’t been a full-time SP since 2007, he’s 35, and this is his fifth team since 2013 for a reason. He won’t pitch enough to be fantasy relevant, except for maybe in AL-Only leagues, and though his K/9 has been great in his career (8.77), that is almost entirely as a reliever and should drop as a result.
Kendall Graveman will likely be on an innings limit (185 is probable) due to only pitching 139 IP between MiLB and MLB last season, but his overall numbers should be better. Look for a small improvement in ERA and a large one in WHIP to the tune of 3.75 ERA/1.28 WHIP/115 Ks (Draft late in AL-Only leagues).
Sean Doolittle missed most of 2015 with a shoulder injury, but is coming into Spring Training fully healthy, and with his velocity back on track. Doolittle will have every chance to be the closer for the A’s, and if he pitches like he did in 2014 (2.73/0.73/12.78 K/9) he’ll fend off setup man Ryan Madson no problem, but any significant hitch could cause him to lose the role. Look for a comeback 2016 season to the tune of 2.90 ERA/0.92 WHIP/27 Saves/12.15 K/9 (Draft in Round 17).
Fernando Rodriguez isn’t likely to get save chances this season, and shouldn’t be drafted. Ryan Madson, however, would easily step into the closer role if Doolittle has any issues, and is worth a look in leagues that count holds, or deep AL-Only formats, though his K/9 isn’t amazing (8.24 in 2015).
Stud: Sonny Gray – SP
Sonny Gray is the lone bona fide star on the Athletics roster in 2016. He’s been a very consistent 2nd-tier pitcher in fantasy in his first two full seasons, with a great ERA (3.08 in 2016 and 2.73 in 2015), good WHIP (1.19 in 2016 and 1.08 in 2015), and over 200 innings in both seasons. The only reason Gray isn’t a top-10 fantasy SP is his strikeouts. His K/9 was nearly identical in the last two seasons, with only a slight dropoff in 2015 (7.52 to 7.31), so despite his innings, he only managed 169 strikeouts last year. His smaller stature (5′ 10″) means his stuff isn’t as naturally overpowering, resulting in a good (but not great) fastball averaging 91-95 mph. His curveball/slider combo gets plenty of Ks, but not as many as the elite. With his groundball-inducing repertoire, look for Gray to repeat his steady great production to the tune of 2.90 ERA/1.14 WHIP/170 Ks/200+ IP (Draft in Round 6).
Bounce-Back Candidate: Henderson Alvarez – SP
Henderson Alvarez, signed by the A’s after being non-tendered by Miami, missed almost all of 2015 due to shoulder surgery. He’s still recovering, and will miss all of Spring Training, with a possible return in May. That much injury risk is causing him to not be drafted in most formats, with the exception of deep or AL-Only leagues, but there is plenty of potential for him in those formats, and even in mixed leagues off the waiver wire upon his return. Remember, Alvarez was pretty good in 2014 (only his second full season), with a line of 2.65 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 111 Ks in 187 IP. Alvarez is never going to contribute much in the K department, with a career high K/9 of 5.65 back in 2011, but for quality innings, and at the cost of a mere flier or wire pickup he’s well worth taking a shot on in deep leagues. Look for a line of 3.55/1.27/75 Ks in around 130 IP (Draft as a flier in AL-Only leagues, monitor in deep mixed).
Sleeper: Khris Davis – OF
Khris Davis, acquired from Milwaukee in the offseason, is a source of massive power that is being a bit overlooked in drafts. His current ADP is around No. 165 (45th among OF), and it has been steadily dropping since his change of scenery, as he moves from the best park to hit homers into the 27th. However, that shouldn’t scare potential owners off as every one of the 27 homers Davis hit in 2015 would have cleared the fences in O.co as well; the power is real (in 2015 his true distance average for HRs was over 410 ft, MLB average was 398). The A’s lineup is a slight improvement over Milwaukee’s so he should drive in plenty of runs (and score quite a few as well) to offset his low average. Look for a line of .245/34 HR/65 R/80 RBI/7 SB with potential for more if he ends up in the three-spot some time this season (Draft in Rounds 14-15).
Bust: Billy Butler – DH
Billy Butler was a monster fantasy player in 2012, with 29 homers, a .313 average, and 107 RBI. Unfortunately, since then it has been all downhill for the DH, as his average (down to .251 in 2015) and RBI (65 in 2015) have plummeted for three-straight years. Butler’s homers have been cut in half (15 in 2015) and they are likely to shrink even more as a whopping 10 of them were of the “just enough” variety last season (just clearing the fence), and his average true distance for his homers has gone from 406 ft in 2012, down to 399 last year. Look for fewer plate appearances in a crowded A’s club, especially if he struggles out of the gate, and him potentially receiving a lower spot in the order than his projected third, giving him a line of .260/10 HR/50 R/58 RBI/0 SB (Draft in AL-Only leagues).
Late-Round Flier: Marcus Semien – SS
Marcus Semien had his first full season in the majors last year and surprised with double digits in homers and stolen bases. His average wasn’t killing you (.257) and he sprinkled a decent amount of runs to boot (65). The downside to Semien, and the reason he deserves his current ADP around No. 275 (23rd among SS), is he is unlikely to improve on his 2015 debut. Out of his 15 homers, four were of the “just enough” variety (barely clearing the fences), with only three “no doubters” (deep homers), and that in addition to calling O.co home means the power could regress. The average is unlikely to improve as well, as he is a career .251 hitter (MiLB + MLB), and finally, he is likely to bat ninth for much of the season, limiting his ABs. The upside could be in stolen bases, where 20 is possible, as he’s stolen as many as 24 in a season in the minors (2013), offsetting a power drop. Look for Semien late in standard mixed leagues if you want to wait on SS or MI, with a likely line of .250/12 HR/68 R/56 RBI/15 SB (Draft late in standard mixed).
Prospect to Watch: Sean Manaea – SP
While an abdominal injury kept Manaea from pitching as many innings as you’d like to see (110 at all levels combined), the upside is strong with the young arm. Manaea’s fastball can hit 97, and his changeup and slider are at least adequate, combining to make an above-average starter when he makes the majors. Manaea will likely start the season in AAA Nashville, but with only one workhorse in the A’s rotation (Gray), and three of their projected arms dealing with injuries going into the season (Hahn – Forearm, Alvarez – Shoulder, and Parker – Elbow), he could make the leap if he impresses in Spring Training or in the minors (Monitor in deep leagues and AL-Only).