Oakland Athletics 2017 Team Preview

2016 Recap: 69-93, Last in the AL West. 2016 was not a pretty site for the Oakland Athletics. They scored the least amount of runs in the American League and allowed the second most runs in the American League. That my friends is not a good formula for success. This winter, the Athletics brought in veterans Rajai Davis and Matt Joyce to hopefully stabilize their lineup and former Giants closer Santiago Casilla will add depth to an already solid bullpen, but there still isn’t much to look forward to when it comes to the Athletics this season. At least Danny Valencia will not be around to fight other players over a pair of shoes.

Offseason Moves:

Significant Additions: OF Rajai Davis, OF Matt Joyce, 3B Trevor Plouffe, RHP Santiago Casilla

Significant Subtractions: INF Danny Valencia

Projected Lineup and Breakdown:

  1. CF Rajai Davis
  2. C Stephen Vogt
  3. DH Ryon Healy
  4. LF Khris Davis
  5. RF Matt Joyce
  6. SS Marcus Semien
  7. 3B Trevor Plouffe
  8. 1B Yonder Alonso
  9. 2B Jed Lowrie

This isn’t a terrible lineup, but it’s not exactly the greatest either. There is reason for optimism however as Rajai Davis, Khris Davis, and Marcus Semien all set a new career highs in home runs during 2016 while rookie Ryon Healy popped 13 homers in 72 games with an impressive .219 ISO. Oakland will more than likely still not finish in the top half of the league in offense, but should have enough improvement to not finish last either. Top hitting prospects Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto are both expected to make their debuts during 2017 giving A’s fans some hope that the next A’s playoff team will be here sooner rather than later.

Projected rotation, Bullpen, and Breakdown:

Rotation –

  • RHP Sonny Gray
  • LHP Sean Manaea
  • RHP Kendall Graveman
  • RHP Andrew Triggs
  • RHP Jharel Cotton

Bullpen –

  • RHP Ryan Madson – Closer
  • LHP Sean Doolittle
  • RHP Santiago Casilla
  • RHP Ryan Dull
  • RHP John Axford

The Athletics had the second worst team ERA in the league last season due in large part to some really bad starting pitching. The Athletics used 13 different starting pitchers last season and all but three of those starters finished with an ERA over 4.00. An even more embarrassing stat about the A’s starters in 2016 is that eight of those ten starters finished with an ERA over 5.00 led by former All Star pitcher Sonny Gray (5.69 ERA). Gray was someone who was always able to out pitch his peripheral stats early in his career despite never having an elite strikeout rate (career 7.59 K/9) or an elite walk rate (career 2.89 BB/9), but that all came crashing down last year for Gray and he was never able to get anything going. The only place to go for the A’s staff is up however as young starters like Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton showed flashes of brilliance in the second half of last season. The A’s bullpen has a chance to be a real strength especially if Sean Doolittle can stay healthy and return to his elite 2014 level that saw him strike-out 89 batters in 62.2 innings while posting a 2.73 ERA.  

Fantasy Analysis:

Stud: OF Khris Davis. Oakland does not have a true “stud” player by most definitions, however I am here to tell you that Khris Davis may have the best power bat in baseball. Davis slugged 42 bombs last season, an impressive number by itself but it is even more impressive when you consider Davis plays half of his games in the Oakland Coliseum one of the biggest parks in all of Major League Baseball. The fantasy community has caught on quickly to Davis’ abilities and he is currently going as the 24th outfielder off the board and just outside (101.26) the top 100 players. I’m buying Davis wherever I can this season.

Sleeper: SP Sean Manaea. I might not be able to consider Manaea a sleeper much longer as it is easy to see the success he had as a rookie especially in the second half as the young lefty posted a 2.67 ERA and help opposing hitters to a .218 batting average. Manaea is currently going as the 44th starter in drafts behind several players with innings limits and injury questions heading into 2017 like Steven Matz, Julio Urias, and Jameson Taillon. Manaea may not have quite the pedigree and potential as those three, but for 2017, I’m taking Manaea every time.

Bust: SP Sonny Gray. Gray’s 2016 was an absolute nightmare as I mentioned earlier. Gray battled through injuries as well as having some bad luck with an obscene 17.5% homerun to fly ball rate. It is easy to look at that stat plus the fact Gray isn’t near as bad as 5.69 ERA and see the some positive regression is coming. While I agree with that statement, I do not believe Gray was ever as good as his 2.73 ERA he posted in 2015 and feel as if he will eventually settle around 3.75 ERA. Not bad by any means, but nothing special either. Currently going directly behind Gray in drafts are young starters Aaron Nola and Drew Pomeranz. I’m taking the chance on both of those two reaching their potential over the chance of Gray bouncing back to what he was pre 2016. Do not buy in on a major Gray rebound.

2017 Record Prediction: There are quite a few pieces I like with this Oakland team. The problem is there just isn’t enough talent on the 25 man roster to feel confident that the A’s can get back in playoff contention. I expect both Houston and Texas to be serious playoff contenders, while Seattle and L.A. could both improve their win totals from last season as well. There just will not be enough wins left for Oakland in this division. 67-95, Last in the AL West.

-Randy Haines

Check out our other 2017 team previews here.

Photo credit: Getty Images/Harry How

Statistics are courtesy of Baseball reference and Fangraphs

Projected rosters are courtesy of rosterresource.com and accurate as of 3/1

Fantasy ADP data courtesy of STATS.com and The NFBC

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