The Oakland Athletics are one of the best teams in baseball at squeezing a platoon for all that it’s worth. This has opened up some opportunities for stingy fantasy owners over the years, and that should continue into 2014. The club will return three starters and they have brought in a defensive stalwart to serve as depth.
Crisp has always had trouble staying on the field. Only once in his 12 year career has he eclipsed 600 plate appearances and that was back in 2005. He’s never played over 145 games in a season. For fantasy owners, he mixes base stealing with a bit of pop and an average around .260. He usually bats at the top of the Athletics’ lineup, which leads to a high runs scored total. RBI opportunities tend to be inconsistent for leadoff men, so don’t bank on much help there.
The 34-year-old had a power outbreak last season, with a career best 22 home runs. His previous high was 16 in 2005. Unfortunately, the good result smells fishy. His home run to fly ball ratio rose considerably (12.4% HR/FB in 2013 against a career 7.5% HR/FB ). Sometimes aging players do hit the ball farther as they change their approach, but Crisp’s average fly ball distance has remained stable over that past three seasons at around 265 feet. That doesn’t sound like a breakout.
Cespedes is a tough player to gauge. He’s spent time on the sidelines in each of his first two big league seasons, which calls his durability into question. While nobody questions his ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, he does seem to have a contact issue in the majors. Last season, that resulted in a low batting average and an OBP below .300. His power has been stable over the two seasons, but poor contact makes him a risky fantasy acquisition. He currently bats in the middle of the A’s lineup, where he can drive in plenty of runs and score his share. Combined with his power and a handful of steals, the bad batting average can be overlooked. Risk enters the equation if he gets off to a bad start and is moved down the lineup.
Reddick had a fantastic 2012 season with 32 home runs and superb defense, but injuries prevented him from playing at his best last year. He had surgery on his wrist in October, which may affect his power early in the season. He’s expected to be ready for the start of spring training, but wrist injuries have been known to sap power long after the player is back on the field.
His excellent defense doesn’t help fantasy owners directly, but it does mean that he’ll probably play everyday when healthy. Historically, batting average has been a problem category for Reddick, but he takes his share of walks, has power potential, and can steal a few bases too. Reddick has posted low BABIP’s in four of his five seasons. Recently, he’s shown a high-ish infield fly ball rate, but he could easily regress to a league average BABIP and thus feature a more palatable average. I suspect he may fall through the cracks in a few leagues, but his potential to produce fantasy average production across five categories could be quite valuable.
The Athletics probably acquired Gentry via trade specifically because their starters have proven so injury prone. Gentry is entering his age 30 season and has established himself as a truly fantastic center fielder. The Rangers primarily used him as a platoon outfielder and limited his exposure against right-handed pitching. Against lefties, Gentry brings an above average bat with good base stealing ability, which has made him invaluable to fantasy owners who like to scrounge off the waiver wire. Against righties, Gentry is a below average hitter due to an increase in strikeouts and a decrease in walks. Keep an eye out to see if a predictable platoon emerges. Eventually one of the three starters will probably hit the disabled list, which should open up more playing time.
I’ll leave the full write up on Moss to whoever covers the infielders. He spent
all most of last season at first base and designated hitter. While he could nominally play corner outfield if injuries stack up, he won’t start the year with outfield eligibility probably won’t see much action out there this season.
Taylor is a former prospect who has become a bit of a disappointment. He’s never shaken complaints about The Stanford Swing and scouts grumble that his swing is exploitable. He’s had success in the minors, but his chances at the major league level have been minimal. There is the potential for a decent batting average, good on base percentage, and mediocre power, but he’s dangerously close to being labeled a Quad-A player if he hasn’t been already. Fantasy owners need not worry about Taylor to start the season, just remember that there is potential for a decent outfielder if he finds playing time.
Brown was designated for assignment on January 22nd to make room for Eric O’Flaherty. By the time this is published, another team will probably have picked him up out of DFA limbo. Brown is a career minor leaguer who has mashed at the Triple-A level but strikes out too frequently to succeed in the majors. His skill set includes power, speed, and defensive chops. He’s a left-handed batter, so it’s possible that he’s good enough against right-handed pitchers to be used in a fantasy platoon. That requires him to find a team, a roster spot, and a path to playing time. I can think of a few major league teams who could afford to gamble on him.
I don’t anticipate the A’s to settle for Taylor as their fifth outfielder. Don’t be surprised if they acquire somebody who can be easily leveraged, like Gentry.
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