We here at Baseball Professor think about our readers first and ourselves second—albeit a close second. That’s why we decided to reach out to other bloggers (who follow their respective teams more closely than we do) to give you a deeper look into the important issues every fantasy owner has to come to grips with this season. Our fifth installment is with the Oakland Athletics and comes courtesy of Dan Hennessey from Baseballin’ on a Budget.
For a complete trip around the Majors, check out the other 2011 team previews in this series.
1) Despite playing in just 75 games last year, Coco Crisp stole a career-high 32 bases. It’s tough to imagine Crisp keeping up that pace, but as a loyal Athletics blogger you probably have a good idea of how much manager Bob Geren likes to run. How many bases do you think Crisp will steal this season?
Despite their reputation, the A’s stole the third-most bases in the American League last season and had the highest success rate (over 80 percent). Two-thirds of those were from Crisp, Cliff Pennington, and Rajai Davis (who’s now gone); I’d expect the thievery to continue. One issue with Coco is health. He’s been a full-time major leaguer for eight seasons and has made it through three of them. The other issue is how often he’s on base. As someone who doesn’t walk a lot (although he’s gotten better) and doesn’t hit for a ton of power, he counts on a lot of batted balls finding holes. His yearly stolen base attempts per plate appearance correlate very well with his on-base percentage. If he plays 100 games, I say he gets 25-30. If he plays 140-ish games, 40-45 is definitely in play. The 32 SB in 75 games pace was a fluke.
2) There’s certainly no shortage of potential in Oakland’s starting rotation. Dallas Braden threw a perfect game last season, Trevor Cahill went 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA, Brett Anderson posted a better ERA (2.80)—albeit in 19 starts—than Cahill and Gio Gonzalez went 8-3 with a 2.59 ERA in the second half. How would you rank those four starters based solely on how you expect them to perform in 2011?
Anderson is the best, without question. The only concern with him is how much he’ll pitch, but I don’t think the injuries he’s had suggest any pattern. He and Gonzalez will strike hitters out, but Anderson does it without the walks. I’d put Gonzalez second, because of the strikeouts and the ability to completely overwhelm other teams on any given night. He’s a good choice as a spot starter on a fantasy team. Pitch him in Oakland and against bad teams and I’ll bet you’ll do well. Cahill is third, he’s had a great deal of BABIP-luck the last two seasons that just can’t be sustained, certainly not at this level. Braden won’t strike too many hitters out and has so little room for error. He can get hot but he’s the least reliable of the four. You won’t get too many strikeouts from Cahill or Braden either.
3) Outfielder Chris Carter is a 6’5, 230-pound behemoth who averaged 30 home runs per 500 at-bats in the minors but struck out once every 3.64 at-bats as well. With Crisp, David DeJesus and Josh Willingham currently slated to start in Oakland’s outfield, when will we see Carter this season and how many homers do you expect from him?
Carter‘s going to start in Sacramento, almost by default. With the three mentioned above, as well as Ryan Sweeney and Conor Jackson in the outfield and Hideki Matsui at designated hitter, there’s just no place for him on the roster. He needs to play everyday and won’t be able to that at first base either (Daric Barton). He’ll probably hit 30 homers this season, but I’d expect 25 of them to be in Triple-A. If you’re considering drafting him, it had better be a deep, deep (or a keeper) league.
4) Kurt Suzuki batted .274 with 15 HR and 88 RBI in 2009 but finished just .242 with 13 HR and 71 RBI last season. Which Suzuki is the real Suzuki?
Batting average wise, I think Suzuki ran into some tough luck last season. His batted ball profile changed just a little, and his contact rate actually improved, but he dropped 30 points. The home run numbers are just about right, and the RBI total should be higher with better players hitting around him. He won’t be in the heart of the order as he’s been so often the last couple of seasons, but the better talent around him should offset that some. I think .270/13/75 along with 65 runs and 5 SB is about the expectation for Suzuki.
5) One of our writers, Bryan Curley, has always had a soft spot in his heart for Kevin Kouzmanoff, who was once a highly-touted prospect in the Padres organization. Back in 2008 with San Diego, he actually had a solid season, batting .260 with 23 HR and 88 RBI, but he’s since been unable to find that kind of success again. Can we ever expect him to approach what he did in 2008?
I’m afraid Mr. Curley will be disappointed. Kouzmanoff is a .245-.265 hitter, depending on the breaks, and the Coliseum hurts right-handed power hitters (applies to Josh Willingham also). His isolated slugging percentage has declined every season he’s been in the big leagues, and he refuses to walk, so the batting average will probably stay low. I think .250/18/65 is about what you’d get from Kouzmanoff.