For the most part, the Athletics have an exciting young starting rotation. But with youth comes inexperience, so it’s a group that could lead the team to another playoff visit or break the hearts of Oakland fans. Enough with the cliches, let’s dive into the players.
The Athletics don’t have very many question marks in terms of personnel in their rotation. The top four are pretty much locked in, while spring training will likely decide the fifth starter. At the top is Brett Anderson, the ground ball inducing southpaw who returned from Tommy John surgery late in the season to make six starts. His skills were as good as ever and his velocity was solid, so the only question that remains is how long he will hold up this year. He threw 175.1 innings back in 2009, but just 131.2 the following season and then his 2011 was cut short by that elbow injury. He should be excellent again while on the mound, but fantasy owners would be wise to not expect a full season’s worth of innings.
Bartolo Colon re-signed with the A’s after being handed a 50 game suspension for testing positive for Testosterone. He was solid over his 152.1 innings, though that success was built on a likely unrepeatable walk rate and the second highest LOB% of his career. With a low strikeout rate and old age, I have little interest, even in AL-Only leagues.
In any other year, Jarrod Parker would have likely finished much better than fifth in the rookie of the year voting. His minor league history suggests he has some ground ball rate upside, while his SwStk% infers a higher strikeout rate. He was a bit lucky last season given his low HR/FB rate, so he’s going to have to improve upon those skills just to come close to matching that ERA. Personally, I do expect better skills, but they won’t be enough to prevent his ERA from rising into the 3.75 range.
Tommy Milone is the last of the starters who are guaranteed to open the season in the rotation. Though he is a fly ball pitcher, he has pinpoint control and has managed to post acceptable strikeout rates. I think he does have a bit more strikeout rate upside, but his skill set reminds me of a Kevin Slowey type. He would fit right in as a Twins pitcher!
The only battle expected to occur during spring training will feature A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily. Griffin seemingly came out of nowhere last season to post a 3.06 ERA in 15 starts with excellent control and a league average strikeout rate. Unfortunately, he is a fly ball pitcher that possesses below average velocity for a right-hander. I don’t see a whole lot of potential for skills growth and he was the beneficiary of some excellent fortune by means of his BABIP and LOB%.
Straily also came out of nowhere, but his success occurred in the minor leagues. He led all minor league starters with at least 20 games started in strikeout total and strikeout percentage. However, in his seven start audition in Oakland, his strikeout and walk rates didn’t quite translate. He also allowed a ton of fly balls. Though he does not possess overwhelming raw stuff, by all accounts his repertoire is better than Griffin’s. As such, Straily makes for the more intriguing fantasy speculation, but I am not too excited about either of them.
Last in the pecking order is Andrew Werner, who was acquired in mid-November from the Padres. He is another soft-tossing lefty, but unlike Milone, is an extreme groundballer. His SwStk% and minor league rates suggest that he will have difficulty exceeding a 7.0 K/9 again, but he does have some deep sleeper appeal in AL-Only leagues if he can manage to find the innings.