The Athletics Rotation

Last season, the Athletics featured a rotation that was deep, but not exceptional. Only Bartolo Colon stood out as above average, and he’s moved on to the New York Mets. The A’s are always resourceful and they’ve built plenty of depth to fill in for the lost Colon. Next season should feature one pitcher who could be a fantasy godsend and a handful of others who have their uses.

The (Probable) Top Three
Sonny Gray
Jarrod Parker
Scott Kazmir

Gray has the potential to be a real world and fantasy ace. I wrote about him earlier this offseason and learned some interesting information. Opposing batters hardly ever swung against him, possibly because he worked the edges of the zone well. Maybe that odd result will regress to league average. He seems to have command of a fastball and curve ball along with four other pitches that he uses less frequently. At least in last season’s audition, he showed the capability to strike out a batter per inning, limit walks, and keep the ball on the ground. We can probably expect some regression in his strikeout rate, but it should remain above average.

He’s going to be a popular sleeper pick among experts this spring, so expect his ADP to climb throughout draft season. Currently, shows that Gray is being selected with pick 193 on average with a range of pick 128 to not drafted. That’s only 16 picks ahead of A.J. Griffin, who I consider the fifth best fantasy starter on the A’s (Griffin is the second ranked A’s starter by ADP). The specifics aren’t important, the lesson here is that Gray might be slightly undervalued, although I don’t expect that to continue forever. Keep in mind, there are a TON of good pitchers in the draft next season, so Gray shouldn’t move too far up the draft board.

Parker is a big step down from Gray in terms of quality. He resembles a league average starter, which isn’t particularly valuable to fantasy owners. In looking over Parker’s PITCHf/x data, I noticed that his change-up is exceptionally good, but that the rest of his repertoire did not stand out. Parker features a strong overall whiff rate due to his change-up, but his strikeout rate is below average. I suspect it’s because he only has one true weapon. He’s not a bad speculative pick, but I’m wary of fantasy pitchers with strikeout rates below 7 K/9.

Kazmir looked refreshed in his return to major league relevance last season. His fastball was back to 2005 velocities, he struck out over a batter per inning, and he also kept the walks to a minimum. Alas, home runs and BABIP were not friendly to him, and it’s unclear if there was a specific reason or it was just bad luck. Oakland is counting on him to remain a solid mid-rotation pitcher. He’s a bit fly ball oriented, but the A’s have an excellent defensive outfield and a deep park to help fly balls land in gloves. There is potential for some strong, cheap numbers, but he obviously comes with a lot of risk.

The Back End
Dan Straily
A.J. Griffin

Straily hasn’t been able to convert his extreme minor league numbers to the majors, but he’s held his own. For fantasy owners, there’s a little too much risk of blow up outings for me to feel comfortable recommending him. Part of that is because he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher. Oakland is one of the best places for such pitchers at the moment, but fantasy owners shouldn’t be too eager to roster him. He strikes me as an early candidate for streaming, especially at home. He also throws a lot of sliders which can make him an injury risk.

Based on peripherals alone, Griffin is a lot like Straily. He walks fewer batters, but that’s about the only advantage. He’s another extreme fly ball pitcher, which makes him most valuable when he starts at a cavernous park. Griffin gets the job done for a major league team, but I don’t consider him a good target in fantasy leagues. Many pitchers project to be merely adequate, but most of them have upside in their profile. The upside with Griffin is very limited. As in, maybe he’ll outperform his peripherals.

Tommy Milone
Josh Lindblom

Milone does a decent job of channeling Jamie Moyer. He’s a fairly soft-tossing lefty who – like so many of the guys ahead of him – gives up a ton of fly balls. He controls the strike zone well and might be the best sixth starter in baseball, excluding prospects. For fantasy purposes, it’s hard to even platoon him safely due to a lowish strikeout rate and the risk of multiple home runs.

Lindblom is settling into a 26th man role. If injuries occurs, teams can use him as a swing man in the rotation or pen without moving a prospect onto the 40 man roster. There’s use in that, but not for fantasy owners.

Raul Alcantara

Alcantara has yet to pitch beyond the High-A level, so he probably won’t see major league action this season. He’s not a great fantasy prospect due to a lowish strikeout rate. The A’s have other notable rotation prospects like Michael Ynoa, but they are all at least a year away from the majors. Alcantara is probably the closest to big league action, which is why he was included here.

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Brad is a former collegiate player who writes for FanGraphs, MLB Trade Rumors, The Hardball Times, RotoWorld, and The Fake Baseball. He's also the lead MLB editor for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter @BaseballATeam or email him here.

11 Responses to “The Athletics Rotation”

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  1. A's Fan says:

    Thoughts on Drew Pomeranz?

    He will be 25 this season and showed a nice K rate (26.2%) as a Triple-A starter in 2013. He’s obviously closer to the bigs than Alcantara or Ynoa. What are the chances of him jumping Milone as the #6 SP option this spring?

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      I don’t think he jumps Milone, but he could overtake Lindblom obviously. I kind of suspect that he’s in for a full season in the bullpen, but I could be misreading the situation. Probably should have included him.

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      • A's Fan says:

        Unless Doolittle (LHP) gets hurt/becomes ineffective, putting Pomeranz (LHP) in the pen would make no sense to me. Even if something does happen to Doolittle, O’Flaherty (LHP) will presumably be back from injury a couple months into the season.

        Perhaps I’m overvaluing Pomeranz’s ability/durability, but I see a 25-year-old lefty with #2 starter upside. Guys like that don’t grow on trees, and I think Beane was taking a flier on Pomeranz as a SP when he traded Brett Anderson for him. Then again, you can never have too many relief pitchers, as the A’s offseason has proven…

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      • Jay29 says:

        @A’s Fan, who says you can’t have 3 LHPs in a bullpen? Especially if one of them is a long-man like Pomeranz would probably be.

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      • Ivan Grushenko says:

        It’s possible he’ll be in the pen but the A’s took the trouble to acquire Fernando Abad to be the 2nd pen lefty early in the season and the aforementioned O’Flaherty later. They have Jesse Chavez as long man, so I think they’d prefer to keep him in AAA and start….at least as Plan A. If there are injuries and/or ineffectiveness he could convert to relief obviously. As an aside, Parker and Griffin were both hurt at the end of 2013.

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      • A's Fan says:

        Expanding on what Ivan said, Sonny Gray was hurt at the end of the season as well (broken finger on non-pitching hand in ALDS).

        I’m not saying there is anything wrong with having 3 LHP in the bullpen, but if Pomeranz has a chance to be an effective SP he would clearly provide more value than being another bullpen arm — especially when you consider the A’s have one of the best bullpens in MLB with or without him.

        Also, with Doolittle/O’Flaherty/Abad, they can STILL have 3 lefty relievers if they want to.

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  2. Tesla says:

    Go A’s!

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  3. Sixto Lezcano says:

    Pomeranz is in the mix before Lindbloom. Beane likes him and they think they can “fix” him.

    Also, I expect Kazmir to have an outstanding season. His FIP was excellent last year and he’s getting a better home park and better OF defense behind him this year. Additionally, his fastball velocity INCREASED with the innings last year and his second half was very good. He’s a bargain in drafts.

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    • A's Fan says:

      Agreed. His BABIP, HR/FB, and LD% were all above his career norms in 2013, indicating he had some misfortune. The solid defense and favorable park should help him regress those numbers even more than he would otherwise. And he was lights-out in September last year.

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