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Last season, the Oakland Athletics looked like a lock to make a deep postseason run. After pulling off the biggest trades of the trade deadline, they looked even more destined to bring home the gold.
Instead, they went just 22-33 in the final two months of the season and finished second in the AL West before being bounced in an extra-inning shootout by the Royals in the Wild Card game.
Batting Average: 21st
The Oakland Athletics look like a drastically different team than last year, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
1B: Ike Davis, Billy Butler: Davis has shown he has the power to hit 30+ home runs and drive in over 90 RBI. He’s also shown he can bat in the very low 200s and strike out a ton. Davis battled a case of Valley Fever last season, which limited him to a .233 average with 11 homers and 51 RBI on the Mets and Pirates. Even healthy, though, don’t expect a lot more from Davis barring a massive turnaround.
Butler is expected to serve as the A’s every day designated hitter but is coming off his worst statistical season of his career. A career .295 hitter with 20+ home run and 95+ RBI ability, Butler batted just .271 with nine home runs and 66 RBI for a surging Royals team last year. Perhaps we can write it off as a fluke and expect closer to a .290+ average with 15+ home runs and around 80 RBI but there’s a lot of questions around these two.
2B: Ben Zobrist, Eric Sogard: The A’s imported Zobrist to man second but he too is coming off his worst full season in the league. After averaging a .269 batting average with 18 home runs, 80 RBI, and 17 steals per season between 2009 and 2013, Zobrist batted .272 with just 10 homers, 52 RBI, and 10 steals. He’s a very solid second baseman and certainly an upgrade over Sogard but he’ll be 34 in May and it may be time to ask if Zobrist is on the downslide of his career.
SS: Marcus Semien: Semien looked solid in his 64 games last season, posting a decent .673 OPS while putting up 18 extra-base hits, 30 runs, and 28 RBI for the White Sox. Though he only stole three bases, Semien showed that he has the ability to steal 20+ while also hitting 15-20 home runs in the minors. There’s a lot of potential in the 24-year-old’s bat and legs.
3B: Brett Lawrie: Expected to replace MVP-candidate Josh Donaldson, Lawrie looked like he was finally ready to break out with 12 home runs and 38 RBI in 69 first half games last season before an injury ended his season. Let’s not forget though, even though he’s been up for three-plus seasons, he’s just 25 and showed some real pop in the minors. If he can stay healthy, he’s a strong candidate for 20+ home runs and 70+ RBI but don’t expect a high batting average. He’s a solid pickup but no Donaldson.
Gentry isn’t much better, batting .254 with 38 runs and 20 steals in 94 games last season. He has decent speed off the bench but leaves a lot to be desired.
CF: Coco Crisp: After posting a .779 OPS with 22 homers, 66 RBI, 93 runs, and 21 steals in 2013, Crisp really fell off in 2014 as he posted a .699 OPS, nine homers, 47 RBI, 68 runs, and 19 steals. Gone are the days of 40 steals but Crisp is still a good bet to bat around .250 with 20 steals, close to 10 home runs, and 70 runs scored.
RF: Josh Reddick: Reddick improved significantly in 2014 (.264 BA, .763 OPS) from 2013 (.226 BA, .686 OPS) but the power remains conspicuously missing (12 HR) after he blasted 32 homers in 2012. Reddick is a fine outfielder but he’s no Yoenis Cespedes. Don’t expect much more from Reddick than he posted last season (12 HR, 54 RBI, 53 R) barring a major turnaround.
C: Stephen Vogt, Josh Phegley: Derek Norris and John Jaso were a great duo. Vogt and Phegley aren’t quite the same. Vogt is a solid catcher and “broke out” last season as he batted .279 with a .752 OPS, nine home runs, 35 RBI, and 26 runs in 84 games. Solid, but nothing special. Phegley played just 11 games for the White Sox last season and has now posted a .207 BA, .553 OPS, seven home runs, and 29 RBI in 76 Big League games. There’s some pop there but clearly not much else.
Sonny Gray: In 45 Big League games, Gray now owns a 19-13 record with a 2.99 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 8K/9. He’s one of the best young pitchers in the league and possibly the only “sure thing” in this rotation.
Scott Kazmir: Kaz posted one of his best seasons in his first year with the A’s, going 15-9 with a 3.55 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 164K/50 BB, reaching the All-Star game for the first time since 2008. If he can stay healthy, he can be a solid starter once again but not a great number two in a rotation.
Drew Pomeranz: Pomeranz was stellar in limited work in his first year with the A’s, going 4-3 with a 2.58 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 10 games as a starter and posting a 1.62 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 16.2 innings out of the pen. He’s a former top 25 prospect and, now that he’s out of Colorado, finally has a chance to prove himself. Expect big things from this 26-year-old, 6-foot-5, 240-pound “kid.”
Jesse Hahn: After the first three guys, the rotation is kind of up in the air. Hahn has a good chance to crack it, though, after going 7-4 with a 3.07 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in his rookie year for the Padres. He was also lights out in 44 minor league starts, posting a 2.26 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in the Rays and Padres farm system. Look for him to impress this spring.
Kendall Graveman: Graveman only got a sniff of the Bigs last season, pitching 4.2 innings out of the pen for Toronto, but showed electric stuff in the minors. In 37 starts, the 24-year-old went 15-9 with a 2.30 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He’s not a strikeout arm but he gets outs and seldom walks anyone. He could turn a lot of heads if he can crack the starting five.
Jesse Chavez: Chavez broke out last season, at the age of 30. Still, it’s unclear whether Chavez will start or come out of the pen in 2015. He went 8-7 with a 3.44 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 119 K/41 BB as a starter while also posting a 3.54 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 20 innings out of the pen. We’ll just have to wait and see what Chavez has in store this year. Sean Nolin and Chris Bassitt reportedly have a shot to crack the rotation as well.
A.J. Griffin: Griffin will hopefully be back by June after undergoing Tommy John surgery last season.
Jarrod Parker: Parker is also optimistically expected back by June after Tommy John surgery.
Doolittle is expected to miss the start of the season with a partially torn rotator cuff but reports say he won’t miss much time. Great news since the 28-year-old converted 22 of his 26 save opportunities while posting a 2.73 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, and 89 K/8 BB last season.
Clippard was a great get. His 2.18 ERA, 0.995 WHIP, and 82 K/23 BB earned him an All-Star spot last year for the Nats.
Cook was solid last year but could be great. He posted a 3.42 ERA and 1.08 WHIP but had posted a 2.30ERA over 142 games over the previous two seasons.
O’Flaherty hasn’t had an ERA over 2.50 since 2009, Otero has a 2.01 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 125 innings over the last two seasons, and Abad posted a 1.57 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in 57 innings in his first season in Oakland.
Defense: C+ to B-
Starting Staff: B-
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