Written by David Wagner
Published: 26 March 2008
Much to the dismay of A’s fans, the Oakland Athletics have reverted to rebuilding mode for the 2008 season. Billy Beane had quite a busy offseason, making the following trades: Dan Haren (to Arizona for prospects), Nick Swisher (to the White Sox, again for prospects), Mark Kotsay (to Atlanta for prospects), and Marco Scutaro (to Toronto for prospects). Their team is full of young, inexperienced players and prospects who, on most other teams, would be playing in Triple-A.
Oakland and the Texas Rangers will compete for last place in the AL West. Oakland has almost no position players that you should consider drafting – even late in the draft there are likely to be better players available. They do have several pitchers that will be of interest, however, so let’s take a look. Top Tier
None. Second TierHuston Street (RP):
Street missed nearly two months in the middle of last summer due to elbow problems, but was effective when he returned. His strikeouts totals, ERA and WHIP continue to be strong, and despite being on a bad team, he should post 30 saves. He’ll be a good pick as he continues to establish himself as one of the game’s top closers and should give your team good stats all-around (strikeouts, saves, ERA and WHIP). After the other top closers are gone (Putz, Saito, K-Rod, etc), Street should be the next targeted closer. Third Tier Joe Blanton (SP):
Now that Dan Haren is gone from Oakland, Blanton figures to be the team’s ace, and a team in rebuilding mode could do much worse for their ace (see the Florida Marlins). That being said, he’s not a pitcher of ace status. In his three big-league seasons with Oakland, he’s shown durability and decent K/BB ratios, although he won’t contribute strongly to your team’s strikeout totals. Expect 200+ innings (though probably not 230 again), an ERA somewhere in the 3.90-4.30 range, and 120-140 strikeouts. The A’s offense is very weak, so figure on less run support adding up to only about 10-12 wins. Offseason trade rumors have made Blanton’s name more noticeable, so figure on him being picked somewhere in the last third of the draft when the choices of starting pitchers is weaker. Jack Cust (OF):
It seems that Cust has finally realized his power potential. In 2007, he totaled 26 HR with 82 RBI in only 395 at-bats, so he could produce a 30/100 year over a full season of DHing. He could be a big contributor for your team, but you’ll also have to deal with a weak batting average, few (in ANY) steals, and an amazingly high number of strikeouts (164). Question Marks Rich Harden (SP):
Injuries have sidelined Harden for what seems like his entire career. Early reports from Spring Training indicate that he’s feeling healthy, so it looks like 2008 might be a bounce-back year. However, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll be able to make 20+ starts when he’s only done so once in five seasons. He owns a 3.60 career ERA and 1.26 WHIP with just under a strikeout per inning, so when he’s healthy he’s a decent pitcher. Keep an eye on him, and if he’s healthy, consider pitching him; if you’re tempted to pick him in the draft, do so with one of your final picks.
Eric Chavez (3B):
Chavez has also been sidelined by injuries, and his 2007 season ended early as a result. After having surgeries to fix numerous ailments during the offseason, he may enter 2008 ready and able to have a healthy year and return to his 30 HR-100 RBI form. If you’re so inclined to draft him, be sure to either a) have a backup player who can fill in if and when Chavez goes down, or b) draft Chavez as your 2nd or 3rd third-baseman.
Unlikely to be Drafted, But Keep an Eye On…
Joey Devine (RP):
Devine came to Oakland from Atlanta in exchange for Mark Kotsay. He was a first-round pick in 2005 and, in fairness, was rushed by Atlanta to the big leagues. A change of scenery, especially to a less-pressured environment, should benefit Devine, who has been described as a future closer. If anything happens with Street – a trade, injury, or long struggles – Devine could get a shot at closing for Oakland. Daric Barton (1B/DH):
Despite having 72 big-league at-bats under his belt, it looks like Barton will be the A’s starting 1B this year. Oakland’s confidence isn’t entirely unfounded though – Barton should hit for average as well as doubles and some power. With all of the options at 1B in both leagues, it’s doubtful that Barton will be selected on draft day; check in on him during the season, and if he produces, he may be worth picking up. Mark Ellis (2B):
Even though he plays a position with traditionally less power and knocked 19 home runs last year, Ellis is likely to be overlooked during the draft. The truth is that there are other 2B out there who can offer better all-around numbers: his .777 OPS ranks very low among everyday starting 2B in both leagues. Also, his K/BB ratio was a little over 2-to-1. However, he rebounded nicely from two injury-shortened seasons, and the pop he can provide is still helpful nonetheless. Statistically, he gets better as the season goes on, so you might monitor him midway through the season and on. Prospect Watch
After their offseason bevy of trades, the A’s have replenished their farm system. A look at a couple of players that could see time in Oakland this year:Gio Gonzalez (P):
Gonzalez is a left-hander with a strong fastball and breaking ball. With tremendous strikeout totals in 4 minor league seasons – 584 in 501 innings – Gonzalez could see time this season in the as a starter in the Oakland rotation. If he gets his shot, consider adding him to your roster to help with your strikeout totals. Carlos Gonzalez (OF):
Another Gonzalez (this one an outfielder) came over to Oakland, this one via the Dan Haren-to-Arizona trade. He’s a highly-touted prospect who figures to be in the Oakland outfield at some point, whether later this season or in 2009 at the latest. Apparently, Gonzalez was a key player in the Dan Haren trade – if Gonzalez wasn’t in the deal, Haren wasn’t leaving Oakland. The validity of that statement may be up for debate, but there doesn’t seem to be any doubt that he’s a strong left-handed batter whom you should watch.