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2016 Team Previews: Oakland Athletics

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Throughout the long, cold offseason, I am doing team by team previews to get you ready for the 2016 fantasy baseball season. Today it's the A's.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my 2016 fantasy team previews. I will be breaking down 2016 prospects for the relevant fantasy players on all 30 teams, one team at a time. Check back throughout the offseason for new team previews. You can catch up on old ones in my archive (here). Because there are 30 teams to cover in limited time, I have to get started now, even though there will certainly be some trades that move players around and open up larger roles for existing players. Also, free agents and guys that moved midseason will be analyzed with one of the teams they played for, even though they likely won't be on that team in 2016 so they don't get missed. Hopefully you can bear with me on those issues and remember that these were written before those trades occurred.

I am starting at the bottom of the standings and working my way up. In each team preview, I will attempt to follow the same layout. First, there will be two tables of stats for hitters (showing stats acquired while playing for this team; traded players will be missing some stats) followed by quick analysis of the most fantasy relevant of those hitters (relevance at my discretion). After that, two tables for the pitching stats and some pitcher analysis. I will then present one breakout player (aka sleeper) and one breakdown player (or bust, if you prefer) for the team. Got it? Ok, let's get started.

Oakland A's

Hitters

Name Position PA HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
Danny Valencia 1B*, 3B, OF 205 11 33 37 0 1 9.80% 19.50% 0.284 0.356 0.530
Ben Zobrist 2B, OF, SS* 271 6 39 33 1 1 12.20% 9.60% 0.268 0.354 0.447
Josh Reddick OF 582 20 67 77 10 2 8.40% 11.20% 0.272 0.333 0.449
Stephen Vogt C, 1B 511 18 58 71 0 2 11.00% 19.00% 0.261 0.341 0.443
Josh Phegley C 243 9 27 34 0 0 5.80% 21.00% 0.249 0.300 0.449
Mark Canha 1B, OF 485 16 61 70 7 2 6.80% 19.80% 0.254 0.315 0.426
Jake Smolinski 3B*, OF 118 5 12 20 0 1 6.80% 16.10% 0.226 0.288 0.462
Billy Burns OF 555 5 70 42 26 8 4.70% 14.60% 0.294 0.334 0.392
Billy Butler 1B*, DH 601 15 63 65 0 0 8.70% 16.80% 0.251 0.323 0.390
Marcus Semien 2B*, 3B*, SS 601 15 65 45 11 5 7.00% 22.00% 0.257 0.310 0.405
Brett Lawrie 2B, 3B 602 16 64 60 5 2 4.70% 23.90% 0.260 0.299 0.407
Ike Davis 1B 239 3 19 20 0 0 9.60% 18.40% 0.229 0.301 0.350
Max Muncy 1B, 3B* 112 3 14 9 0 0 8.00% 27.70% 0.206 0.268 0.392
Eric Sogard 2B, SS* 401 1 40 37 6 1 5.70% 12.50% 0.247 0.294 0.304
Sam Fuld OF 325 2 34 22 9 3 9.20% 16.90% 0.197 0.276 0.293
Coco Crisp OF 139 0 11 6 2 0 9.40% 18.00% 0.175 0.252 0.222

Name BABIP LD% GB% FB% HR/FB SwStr% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Danny Valencia 0.308 18.80% 52.80% 28.50% 26.80% 11.30% 16.70% 47.20% 36.10% 4.00
Ben Zobrist 0.277 18.50% 50.20% 31.30% 9.10% 3.50% 18.40% 54.70% 26.90% 3.54
Josh Reddick 0.278 21.00% 38.40% 40.60% 10.60% 6.20% 16.80% 58.00% 25.20% 5.56
Stephen Vogt 0.290 21.90% 37.60% 40.40% 12.50% 6.80% 14.60% 58.40% 27.00% 2.83
Josh Phegley 0.283 20.60% 36.60% 42.90% 12.00% 11.40% 20.00% 50.30% 29.70% -0.82
Mark Canha 0.289 17.80% 42.00% 40.20% 11.40% 9.80% 19.00% 49.70% 31.30% 3.36
Jake Smolinski 0.226 11.20% 47.20% 41.60% 13.50% 6.80% 30.30% 44.90% 24.70% -2.36
Billy Burns 0.339 21.60% 50.30% 28.10% 4.10% 8.30% 30.50% 55.90% 13.60% 6.21
Billy Butler 0.282 17.70% 50.80% 31.50% 10.80% 7.90% 15.20% 54.70% 30.20% 1.97
Marcus Semien 0.312 23.10% 38.10% 38.80% 9.10% 9.00% 16.70% 54.90% 28.40% 3.22
Brett Lawrie 0.320 18.50% 48.80% 32.70% 11.60% 11.90% 16.90% 53.70% 29.40% 3.11
Ike Davis 0.272 19.80% 52.30% 27.90% 6.30% 7.40% 19.80% 52.30% 27.90% -2.68
Max Muncy 0.261 12.70% 32.40% 54.90% 7.70% 9.60% 13.90% 50.00% 36.10% -3.15
Eric Sogard 0.283 22.00% 44.30% 33.60% 0.90% 4.00% 20.30% 62.90% 16.90% -0.50
Sam Fuld 0.235 18.10% 59.50% 22.40% 3.80% 5.40% 24.00% 55.90% 20.20% -2.16
Coco Crisp 0.218 17.80% 43.60% 38.60% 0.00% 8.60% 21.80% 62.40% 15.80% -3.98

*Will lose this eligibility in 2016

**The ESPN player rater is based on a player's standard 5 x 5 category performance relative to average. A score of 0 is replacement level and negative values mean the player is actually hurting your team. Values in the 1-2 range generally are for your worst starting player, unless you are unlucky. There are no positional adjustments, though, so shortstops and catchers will often have very low scores relative to everyone else. It is normalized so that guys with little playing time can be compared to guys that played all year.

Analysis

Danny Valenica had surprising value this year. In limited playing time he was very productive. Nothing about it was fluky either. The table above is only for the players' time with the A's, so Valencia's other seven homers don't show up. He is normally only good against lefties but was just as good against righties this year. While it would be nice to expect that to continue, his much larger body of work shows that he will probably return to being bad against righties. As a lefty only source of good power, he has little use in fantasy, but if he did change his approach against righties, it might be worth monitoring next year. But, don't invest anything until we see more.

Zobrist had a nice rebound season after his slugging dipped below 0.400 in 2014. He returned to basically what he has been for a while now, minus the steals. He is still useful for his flexibility and second base eligibility, but his overall value is dipping every year with the drop in speed. He is most useful in leagues with OBP. I expect more of the same in 2016 as 2015.

Josh Reddick had a good season of his own. The 20 homers is very nice and the 10 steals add to the fun. Steamer projects his 2016 line to be almost identical to his 2015 line and I agree. Everything looks sustainable to me.

Stephen Vogt was the best catcher in fantasy for the first two months and dropped off steeply after that. His final season numbers actually turned out similar to what he did in 2014 (in fewer at bats). His wRC+ in 2014 was 114 and it was 115 in 2015. So, despite the roller coaster season from him, we know that he is actually an above average catcher (not an elite one) and has been that way for 1.5 seasons. Therefore, I agree (mostly) with Steamer that we should expect more of the same in 2016. His power (ISO, SLG, HR) and walk rate increased significantly in 2015 and it all seems legit. He pulls the ball a lot, hits lots of fly balls, and has good medium and hard hit rates. Steamer sees only 12 HR in 2016, but I think 15-17 is more likely.

Mark Canha had a good debut season, but since he is only 1B and OF eligible, he has tough competition. I don't think he is relevant except as a corner infielder in deep leagues. One thing to note with him is that he really struggled against left handed pitching, which is weird for a right handed batter. His wRC+ against LHP was 64 (127 against RHP). I don't expect that to continue next year, so he has some upside once that LHP performance gets up near his RHP performance. That could put him into Mitch Moreland and Adam Lind territory.

Now onto the two Billys. Burns had a great first full season, stealing 26 bases with a 0.294 average. Batting leadoff helped boost his run totals. Like most speedsters, he has no power, but his profile looks a lot like Dee Gordon and he is doing everything fast guys should be doing to get on base. With the scarcity of steals in baseball right now, this could be a great cheap source of them. Butler had a somewhat resurgent year after a terrible 2014. He did hit 15 HR and put up decent counting stats. However, his power is still lacking (0.390 slugging), his average is down, his OBP is league average, he hits way too many grounders, and he will be DH-only again. Steer clear.

Marcus Semien played terrible defense at short, but his offense was actually good for the position. I've always liked his skill set offensively and he delivered 15 HR and 11 steals. He has a balanced approach at the plate and is about average in a number of stats. He isn't great at anything, but is average in many things, sort of like former teammate Zobrist. He doesn't have the OBP of the Zorilla yet, but he walked a lot in the minors, so it could come. He is a clear top 10 SS. Steamer projects small improvements in almost every stat next year, so things are looking good.

Brett Lawrie, oh Brett Lawrie. I've never been a fan of his. This was actually a decent year for him and he stayed healthy, but he produced a pretty average line. He has average power, below average speed, an average batting, um, average, and a below average OBP. He is so mediocre it is painful. He is still 2B eligible, so I guess he would be useful as a middle infielder or 10th-15th best 2B. I just don't see much upside at this point beyond that.

The only hitting prospect likely to see the big league club this year is Matt Olson. He could take 1B away from Canha/Vogt some of the time. He has 65-grade power and likes to take walks, so he could hit 25 HR in a full season with a good OBP. It isn't clear when he might be up, but he will probably start in AAA and be ready to move up in the summer. He's not a top prospect overall, but he could be the next Mitch Moreland or Adam LaRoche.

Pitchers

Name Position IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BABIP LOB% GB% SwStr%
Scott Kazmir SP 109.2 2.38 3.16 3.65 1.09 0.262 77.50% 45.90% 10.80%
Sonny Gray SP 208 2.73 3.45 3.69 1.08 0.255 76.80% 52.70% 9.70%
Tyler Clippard RP 38.2 2.79 3.96 5.51 1.19 0.214 82.20% 20.80% 12.40%
Jesse Hahn SP 96.2 3.35 3.51 3.90 1.17 0.273 65.80% 52.60% 7.50%
Chris Bassitt SP 86 3.56 3.76 4.5 1.26 0.289 73.60% 44.50% 8.50%
Drew Pomeranz SP, RP 86 3.66 3.62 3.89 1.19 0.27 65.00% 42.20% 11.00%
Fernando Rodriguez RP 58.2 3.84 3.08 3.81 1.14 0.264 65.70% 39.20% 13.00%
Kendall Graveman SP 115.2 4.05 4.6 4.3 1.42 0.302 75.70% 50.00% 7.60%
Fernando Abad RP 47.2 4.15 5.5 4.49 1.34 0.264 84.70% 39.00% 10.60%
Jesse Chavez SP 157 4.18 3.85 3.89 1.35 0.312 72.00% 43.10% 8.70%
Evan Scribner RP 60 4.35 4.33 2.83 1.03 0.286 74.30% 39.40% 12.90%
Arnold Leon RP 26.2 4.39 4.18 4.33 1.46 0.321 71.80% 45.90% 9.40%
Pat Venditte RP 28.2 4.4 4.15 4.95 1.19 0.235 67.10% 32.90% 8.80%
Edward Mujica RP 33.2 4.81 4.89 4.11 1.22 0.286 64.10% 43.10% 12.00%
Sean Nolin SP 29 5.28 5.13 5.53 1.62 0.301 67.60% 42.30% 6.00%
Felix Doubront SP 52.2 5.81 4.92 4.52 1.44 0.299 64.70% 37.80% 10.90%
Eric O'Flaherty RP 21.1 5.91 4.17 4.39 1.97 0.354 61.60% 63.60% 10.10%
Aaron Brooks RP 51 6.71 5.11 4.47 1.59 0.341 64.90% 44.80% 7.10%
Dan Otero RP 46.2 6.75 4.4 3.93 1.5 0.354 59.50% 48.50% 7.00%

Name SV HLD K% BB% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Scott Kazmir 0 0 23.00% 8.00% 17.90% 59.10% 22.90% 4.41
Sonny Gray 0 0 20.30% 7.10% 18.30% 56.70% 25.00% 8.26
Tyler Clippard 17 0 22.80% 12.60% 20.80% 60.40% 18.90% 4.22
Jesse Hahn 0 0 15.80% 6.20% 19.70% 57.00% 23.30% 1.82
Chris Bassitt 0 0 17.70% 8.30% 22.10% 54.30% 23.60% 0.00
Drew Pomeranz 3 12 23.00% 8.70% 24.50% 51.00% 24.50% 1.78
Fernando Rodriguez 0 6 26.90% 9.90% 18.40% 60.50% 21.10% 0.74
Kendall Graveman 0 0 15.30% 7.60% 15.50% 56.30% 28.30% -0.20
Fernando Abad 0 1 22.00% 9.30% 15.70% 49.30% 35.00% -0.92
Jesse Chavez 1 0 20.20% 7.10% 18.90% 49.60% 31.50% 1.21
Evan Scribner 0 8 26.90% 1.70% 17.90% 48.20% 33.90% 0.37
Arnold Leon 0 0 16.50% 7.80% 20.70% 47.10% 32.20% -1.95
Pat Venditte 0 2 19.30% 10.10% 19.10% 54.80% 26.20% -0.96
Edward Mujica 1 4 15.90% 2.90% 26.80% 46.40% 26.80% -0.86
Sean Nolin 0 0 11.20% 9.00% 19.60% 48.60% 31.80% -2.46
Felix Doubront 1 0 18.90% 9.30% 20.30% 53.40% 26.40% -2.36
Eric O'Flaherty 0 3 13.90% 12.00% 20.00% 61.30% 18.80% #N/A
Aaron Brooks 0 0 15.10% 6.00% 14.00% 56.40% 29.60% #N/A
Dan Otero 0 2 13.70% 2.90% 18.50% 52.40% 29.20% #N/A

*If they were outside the top 550 pitchers on the player rater, they will show up as #N/A

Analysis

Kazmir, like Zobrist, is here just because he doesn't fit elsewhere. He took a step back this year, with a 4.1 xFIP (3.36, 3.59 in 2013 and 2014). He has gone from an above average pitcher in Oakland to merely an average one. That plus the injury risk tells me to stay away. If a Collin McHugh or Yovani Gallardo-type innings eater is useful in your league, then Kazmir could be helpful, but otherwise, there are better options.

Sonny Gray's excellent ERA covers up some less excellent skills. Don't get me wrong, his ground ball rate and low WHIP are stellar. But, his strikeout rate dropped a little, he doesn't get great whiffs, and it appears he was a little lucky with BABIP. However, his skills remind me of Johnny Cueto, who's ERA always beat his FIP and xFIP and does well with an average strikeout rate and limiting damage on contact. I believe Gray will still be an ace next year with an ERA around 3.1 or 3.2.

Jesse Hahn's strikeout rate took a nosedive in 2015, falling from 8.59 K/9 to 5.96. This was justified by his swinging strike rate dropping from 10.1% to 7.5%. I was high on him going into the season, but the strikeout drop is very troubling. I still like his high groundball rate and he's only 26, so I'm not giving up on him. Steamer sees a 3.98 ERA next year, but I'm more optimistic. With the big home ballpark and a little bounceback in strikeouts, I could see a 3.6 ERA easily. I expect about 7 K/9, though.

I didn't see enough positive signs to support Chris Bassitt's 3.56 ERA. His xFIP and SIERA were both well above 4. He doesn't have the groundballs or strikeouts to succeed in 2016. Drew Pomeranz, on the other hand, pitched pretty well when he was healthy, which is always the issue with him. He just had shoulder surgery in October, so who knows how he will pitch next year, but his 2015 numbers would put him in the 3.4-3.5 range for ERA in my opinion. I like the skills and Steamer even projects a better 2016 than 2015, assuming he is back to 100% this spring.

As a starter, "Uncle" Jesse Chavez wasn't as bad as his ERA indicates. His xFIP was under 3.9 and his K%-BB% was above average. He isn't guaranteed a rotation spot, though, so I wouldn't invest in him. I would order the guys I've mentioned (minus Kazmir): Gray, Healthy Pomeranz, Hahn, Chavez (my projected ERA is 3.90), Bassitt.

The only true prospect (no MLB experience) that I expect to have an impact on the pitching side is Sean Manea. He is a lefty starter acquired from the Royals this year and has a plus fastball with two average secondary pitches and average command at best. He doesn't have a high ceiling due to his lack of secondary stuff and delivery inconsistency, but he has been racking up Ks in AA so far and should debut late in 2016. He's another name to keep in mind.

As for the bullpen, Evan Scribner and Sean Doolittle are the only two names I'm interested in right now. Scribner spent half the season looking like the best reliever on the team, but then folded late. Scribner's peripheral stats still look great, even after a terrible second half. Look at his K%-BB%, SwStr%, xFIP, and WHIP. All are elite. Relievers can be very fickle from year to year, but Scribner should be the main setup man in Oakland, with a good chance to take the closer job if Doolittle isn't 100% or falters. Speaking of him, Doolittle only threw 13 innings last year due to injuries, so he missed my 20 IP cutoff for the table above. He pitched OK, but not like he did in 2014. I need to see him this spring to see if his velocity and command are fully back. If they are, then I expect him to be a very good closer again. If not, Scribner will likely take the job. Doolittle's velocity should be around 94 for maximum effectiveness. He was 92 in 2015. If he's healthy, this should be a great one-two punch next year.

Breakout

Matt Olson

I'll go out on a limb and pick a prospect with no MLB experience here. Matt Olson, if he gets playing time, has the power/patience combo that I like in a hitter. He could be a lite version of Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant. I'm thinking a half season of 13 HR with a 0.340 OBP or so.

Breakdown

Danny Valencia

See my above paragraph about him for details. I don't think he will continue to be good against RHP and will therefore lose his mixed league value.

Check back soon for the next team preview as we keep moving up the standings. Tschus!