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, MockDraftCentral.com 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.

Depth
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.

Prospects
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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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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