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Monday, February 11, 2013

MLB 2013 Team Preview: Oakland Athletics

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MLB 2013 Team Preview: Oakland Athletics
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman

Oakland Athletics
2012 Record: 94-68, won WC, lost in ALDS
The Athletics traded away their two best pitchers over the previous winter yet saw their win total jump up by 20, turning them into play-bound underdogs in the process. 

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: John Jaso, Jed Lowrie, Hiroyuki Nakajima

NOTABLE LOSSES: Brandon McCarthy, Cliff Pennington, Chris Carter, Jonny Gomes, Brandon Inge

Keys to Success: What kind of contribution will infielder Nakajima make for the team? The recent addition of Jed Lowrie covers shortstop, but probably not for the whole season as Lowrie is notoriously injury-prone. Can Oakland get quality production out of shortstop and second base all year? Who among their big 2012 surprises will retain their success? In particular, how real was Brandon Moss’ transformation into a half-season superstar?

PROSPECT WATCH:
Prospect Key:
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool

DAN STRAILY, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health

x
x
x
x
x
Straily does not have premium stuff but he mixes his pitches well and has enough movement and deception to lead the minor leagues in strikeouts last year. He fanned 190 batters in just 152 innings across the minors’ two highest levels, with a 9-7 record and a 2.78 ERA. His major league trial was brief but successful, enough that I think he is being undervalued by traditional scouts. In seven starts, Straily went 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA and a 16/32 BB/K ratio in 39.1 innings. It is one thing to be skeptical about a pitcher whose talent lags behind his performance, particular if he is a little older (Straily will be 24 next year). However, once he proves he can do it at the majors, then he deserves to be taken seriously.
ADDISON RUSSELL, SS:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
xx
xx
x
x
x
Russell was taken eleventh overall in this year’s draft, but even that looks like a steal after a stellar debut during which he flashed superstar potential. Between three levels of rookie-ball, Russell hit .369/.432/.594 with 7 HR (26 XBH), 45 RBI, and 16 SB. The 19-year-old also looked great at shortstop and has a good chance to stay there. He’s already a top prospect and further success in full-season ball next year could see him approach overall top-ten status on prospect lists very soon.
GRANT GREEN, 2B (rookie watch):
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x

TBD

TBD
x
Green has bounced all over the place and his prospectus status has moved accordingly. His offense has generally been adequate if not overwhelming, and he’s 25 now. Last year at AAA-Sacramento he hit .296 with 15 HR and 75 RBI. The most promising aspect of his season was his decline in strikeouts, from 119 to 75 in near the same amount of plate appearances. He probably won’t walk much and he offers below-average speed. His potential production from second base could be solid.
MILES HEAD, 1B:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x

x
TBD


Miles Head drew some notice with a loud .382/.433/.715 line as a 21-year-old with High-A Stockton in the first half of the season. Moved to AA-Midland in the second half, he was less prolific, hitting .272/.338/.404 and drawing concern with his 16/75 BB/K ratio in 213 at-bats. Overall he hit .333 with 23 HR and 84 RBI. Two signs are encouraging; first, he hits right-handers well, showing no major platoon split, and he showed a similar pattern of production in 2011; struggling in High-A, which he obviously adjusted to this year. His defense is very suspect, so he’ll have to hit to play. But he’s an interesting prospect.

2012 Top Pick: Russell

Sleeper MLB Contributor: MICHAEL TAYLOR, OF, was once a top prospect but has mostly struggled with health and performance since joining Oakland. He may still have the talent to avoid AAAA status.
2013 Outlook and Projection: Unlike the Orioles, the other major surprise contender in last year’s AL playoff race, the Athletics are for real. Billy Beane’s near-complete turnover of the roster yielded spectacular results last year, and many of the success stories are primed for a repeat.  Yoenis Cespedes has superstar potential, and both Jarrod Parker and Brett Anderson are primed for stong pitching seasons. The recent addition of John Jaso also gives Derrek Norris more time to develop into an everyday player. The Oakland roster is suddenly full of guys with old-school “moneyball” skills-high OBP, power, and good base-running, although they are definitely not a softball team, with strong defenders in the outfield. Still, the Athletics look more solid than formidable, and they are playing in the same division as the Rangers and free-spending Angels.  That makes them merely POSSIBLE CONTENDERS.

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