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Oakland Athletics

Original Published Date: Nov. 30, 2012

The Athletics had a remarkable 2012 season that resulted in winning the AL West over an arguably much more talented Texas Rangers team.  They did it by trading for less heralded players such as Josh Reddick, surprising the industry by signing Cuban Yoenis Cespedes, and of course, getting major contributions from their rookie pitching staff.

What was interesting is many of their Top Prospects actually had disappointing years.  Michael Choice and A.J. Cole took a step back in their development but are still very much Major League prospects.  Grant Green had another solid year but he lacks a plus tool and is therefore taking a very slow march to the Major Leagues.

While some of the Athletics 2011 Top Prospects had down years, Dan Straily had one of the best years of any minor league player.  While his big league debut did not match the results of his minor league year, I believe in him as a mid-rotation starter that should contribute to the A‘s in 2013.

Finally, there is 2012 number one draft pick (#11 overall), shortstop Addison Russell.  Russell is a toolsy teenager that has both power and speed potential and the ability to stay at shortstop.  While he’ll only be 19-years-old to start the 2013 season, I expect Russell to start the year in full season Low-A with a mid-season promotion to the Cal League.

1. Addison Russell (SS)

2013 Age: 19 BP: Florida
Ht:6-0  Weight: 185 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015-16
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2012 R-LowA 217 46 7 45 16 .369 .432 77.9 10.6 .448

Addison Russell was taken with the 11th overall pick in the 2012 draft and hit the ground running.  In 217 at-bats, Russell batted .369 with seven home runs and 16 stolen bases while playing very good defense.  What was most impressive part of his year was that 58 of those at-bats were in the Midwest League where he played as an 18-year-old.

Russell is a big kid and looks larger than his 6-foot, 185 pound frame would suggest.  He has plus bat speed with a short compact swing that when combined with his physicality, should equate to at least above average power.  He also has plus speed with a time of 6.7 second in the 60-yard-dash, and a time of 4.17 seconds down to first base.  He also should be able to stay at shortstop as he demonstrates nice footwork and an above average arm.

His hitting mechanics are good with a nice wide stance that should enable him to keep good balance through the swing.  His setup is a little noisy and the Athletics should look to quiet this down.  Again, the swing is compact and with strong hands, I definitely see future power.

The Athletics have a history of moving their prospects quickly and I believe that will be the case with Russell.  Don’t expect a .369 batting average going forward as his BABIP was an unsustainable .448 in 2012.

Fantasy Impact: Russell has a ceiling of all-star shortstop and is a must own in all Dynasty League formats.  He’s a Top 50 prospect in my book.

2. Dan Straily (RHP)

2013 Age: 24 BP: California
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 215 Bats: Right Throws: Left ETA: 2012
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 AA-Maj 191.1 146 64 20 2.73 10.93 3.01 1.07

Dan Straily had a remarkable year going from relative obscurity to the Major Leagues.  He did it by first dominating Double-A and then arguably pitching better in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. In those two stops, he compiled 190 strikeouts in 152 innings while only walking 42; or a 4.5 strikeout to walk ratio.  However, once he was promoted to the Majors, things did not go nearly as well.  He became homer prone and gave up 11 bombs in only 39.1 innings and his strikeout to walk ratio dropped to 2 to 1.  Was the regression due to Straily being tired as he pitched 60 more innings than he did in 2011 or did he hit a league that was just too much for him?  To be fair, I think the answer is a little bit of both.

Straily has a deep arsenal with both a fourseam and twoseam fastball.  Both offerings sit 89-94 MPH with the fourseamer averaging 93.50 MPH and the twoseamer 92.50 MPH in his seven big league starts. According to PitchFx data, he does throw the twoseamer much more frequently.  When I saw him in his minor league outings, the pitch had more sinking bite than it did in his tenure in the majors.  In fact, this was a big part of the reason he only gave up nine home runs in those 152 innings in the minors.  I think the pitch is at least an above average offering and believe he’ll have more success than he did in 2012.

His secondary pitches consist of a below average curve ball that he rarely uses, an above average slider that got better as the year went on and a change-up that was flat out nasty.  Again, all those pitches were inconsistent once he made it to the majors indicating that he was either tired or over amped.  I’ve seen those pitches live and they are better than what he showed.

If I sound like a Straily apologist, then I’m guilty as charged.  I believe in the stuff and believe it will play better next spring when he is more rested and comfortable in his surroundings.  He doesn’t have a top-of-the-rotation profile, but I believe he’s a solid number three starter that will play up with half his games in Oakland.

Fantasy Impact: I’m adding Straily late in all my Fantasy Teams in 2013 as I believe he will break camp with the team.  I think you can expect 7.5 strikeouts per nine with a 3.50 ERA and a decent WHIP.

3. A.J. Cole (RHP)

2013 Age: 21 BP: Florida
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014-15
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 A+-A 133.2 138 55 14 1.96 8.99 3.72 1.26

A.J.Cole had a disappointing start to the year as he absolutely bombed in his promotion to High-A.  He posted a 0-7 record and a brutal 7.82 ERA.  However, if you dig under the surface stats, things were not nearly as bleak.  His strikeout rate was a respectable 7.34 per nine and his control was excellent at 2.37 walks per nine.  So, what happened?

It looked like his curve ball deserted him and he became uncomfortable throwing it and relied too much on his fastball.  The fastball was very straight and did not have any sink and batters teed off.  The curve ball, which is not a classic 12-6 or 11-5 offering, was very inconsistent.  To me, it looks like a spike or knuckle curve which can be very difficult to control.  Ultimately, Cole might be better served by throwing a more classic curve or switching to a slider.

As bad as the first six weeks went, the remainder of the year was great as the A’s decided to move Cole back to Low-A where he dominated with a 9.60 K/9 and a 1.79 BB/9.  The curve looked better and the changeup looked like a real swing and miss pitch.  So, we are left with an obvious question…Is Cole really a prospect with Major League potential?

I still really like the potential of Cole as the arsenal is good and he throw strikes.  He does need to work on his breaking pitch as it can’t be just a chase pitch and instead he needs to learn to throw it for strikes.   It’ll be interesting to see if the A’s start him in High-A or move him directly to Double-A.

Fantasy Impact: I was very aggressive in adding Cole to my Dynasty League last year and with his mixed year, I should be able to get him as at a discount.  I’m still buying and so should you.

4. Grant Green (OF/IF)

2013 Age: 23 BP: California
Ht:6-3  Weight: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2012 AAA 524 73 15 75 13 .296 .338 85.7 6.3 .320

I think Grant Green has a chance to be a solid-regular major leaguer but the way things are going, I’m not sure when that’s going to be or where.

Drafted 13th overall in the Year of Trout (2009), Green has performed well in each level he has been placed.  He makes solid contact (86% in 2012), has average power and speed and is a good defender whether it’s at shortstop, center field, or second base.  While he’s a well-rounded player, none of the tools are elite and that’s what is slowing his progression to the Majors.

At the plate, Green combines a short compact swing with great hand-eye coordination.  The swing doesn’t have a lot of loft and the bat speed is just average indicating only average power at the highest level.  While he makes contact, he’s very aggressive at the plate with a 6% walk rate.  This aggressiveness, if not controlled, will ultimately put pressure on his batting average.

It appears that second base could be Grant Green’s ticket to the Majors.  With Jemile Weeks having a disappointing year in 2012, the opportunity is setup for Green.  If he makes it, I think you should expect a .270 batting average with 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases with good defense at second.

Fantasy Impact: For me, Grant Green is a middle infielder fantasy player in the mold of Dustin Ackley.  Said another way, he’s a player who will not hurt your team but will not provide elite counting statistics.

5. Michael Choice (OF)

2013 Age: 23 BP: Texas
Ht:6-3  Weight: 220 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2012 AA 359 59 10 58 5 .287 .356 75.5 9.2 .352

Billy Beane has recognized that power is a scarce commodity, particularly right-handed power, and he acquired Josh Reddick and Yoneis Cespedes to prove his point.  Additionally, Beane drafted Michael Choice as his first selection (10th overall) in the 2010 draft as a college right-handed power hitter.

Initially things went well.  In 2011, Choice blasted 30 home runs in the hitter friendly Cal League and it looked like the A’s had in fact found a power hitting outfielder.  However, the swing is not good; as it’s a long leveraged swing with a lot of backside collapsed.  While there might be power, Choice will likely struggle to make contact and therefore struggle to get to his power.  In 2012, his swing mechanics caught up to him in the Texas League, and he only belted 10 home runs before breaking his hand in August.

Choice does have speed, but he’s not a burner and therefore will not be a threat on the base paths.  In fact, his nine stolen bases in 2011 and five in 2012 should be what the A’s can expect from him at the highest level.

Fantasy Impact: For me, Michael Choice is a second division starter and a number five fantasy outfielder.  His ceiling could ultimately be a Josh Willingham type player, but I think it’s more likely he’ll hit 20 home runs with high single-digit stolen bases and bat .230.

6. Miles Head (3B)

2013 Age: 21 BP: Georgia
Ht:6-0  Weight: 215 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013-14
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2012 A+-AA 486 82 23 84 3 .333 .383 72.9 8.1 .415

Miles Head had a Michael Choice type breakout year in the Cal League where he hit 18 home runs in only 267 at-bats while batting .382.  However, with his .428 BABIP and the great hitting confines of the Cal League in his rear view mirror, Double-A proved much more difficult.

In 213 at-bat in the Texas League ,he hit five home runs and had a terrible 65% contact rate.  In looking at his swing, it’s not only long but it’s also in two parts.  In other words, after his load, he stops before starting up again.  This approach loses most of the kinetic energy you achieve on the back swing and is consequently very difficult to generate consistent contact and power.

Head is an average defender at third base and may ultimately be moved to first, which will really put pressure on his bat.  Then again, Oakland has been looking for a full-time first baseman for years, so this might actually be a good option.

Fantasy Impact:  While many are buying into Head, I’m more caution with him and put his ceiling as a second division starter with 20-25 home run potential but with batting average downside.  I would not be targeting him early in a Dynasty League but instead would wait until one of the final rounds to add him to my team.

7. Sonny Gray (RHP)

At 5-foot-11, Sonny Gray is not your prototypical sized professional pitcher.   However, he does throw hard with the ability to dial his fastball up to the mid-90’s.  However, because of his size and his noticeable back leg collapse, there is very little downward plane and this is causing his fastball to be flat.  Gray does have a plus curve ball but is still trying to find his touch with the changeup.  While there are some who are very high on Gray, I’m not yet in that camp.  I think he profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter who will be a pitch-to-contact pitcher.

8. Chris Bostick (SS)

Many people in the industry expected Chris Bostick to explode onto the scene in 2012 but his performance on the field didn’t match the lofty expectations that were set.  However, he did have a very solid professional debut by batting .281 across the AZL and NY Penn League with a 77% contact rate and a 9% walk rate.  Bostick is a great athlete that brings plus bat speed and a compact swing that projects future power.  He also has above average speed that translated into 16 stolen bases.  I would not be surprised is Chris Bostick becomes one of our May pop-up guys as he starts the season in Low-A.

9. Renato Nunez (3B)

Renato Nunez was signed out of Venezuela in 2010 for $2.2 million dollars and had a great professional debut in the AZL.  He showed off his plus bat speed and advanced approach by hitting .325 with an 80% contact rate and an 11% walk rate.  While it’s likely Nunez will start 2013 back in the Complex League, I would not be surprised if he gets a full season assignment in Iowa with Burlington Bees.

10. Brad Peacock (RHP)

As one of the center pieces to the Gio Gonzalez trade, Brad Peacock did not have a stellar follow-up to his 2011 breakout season.  The two biggest issues were lack of control (4.41 BB/9) and his inability to keep the ball in the park as he served up 16 home runs in 134.2 innings.  While his mechanics are ok, he has a tendency to overthrow the ball which is causing him to loose his release point.  While I believe this can be remediated, I think the stuff is just ok.  He has good velocity on his fastball at 93-94 MPH but there is very little movement and given his 6-foot-1 stature, the ball stays flat and hittable.  His ground-ball-to-fly ratio is below one which makes him a fly ball pitcher.  While the ballpark in Oakland will help, there is very little margin for error.

3 comments on “Oakland Athletics

  1. Has your opinion of Michael Choice changed at all?

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