No 2012 division champion was more surprising than the Oakland A's. Not only did the sabermetric stat PECOTA peg them as a 77-85 team, but the Rangers and Angels looked like the two best teams in the American League heading into the year; PECOTA had the Rangers as a 98-win team, seven games better than the 91-71 Angels. Against those long odds, and despite being 22-29 at the end of May, the A's won the West, sweeping a season-ending series against the Rangers to do so in dramatic fashion.
Even though the A's outlasted the Rangers and Angels to win arguably the best division in baseball last year, few believe they can do it again this year. The Rangers may have lost Josh Hamilton (to the Angels, of course) and Mike Napoli, but their rotation remains one of the best in the league, and they're not exactly hurting on offense. The Angels lured Hamilton from the Rangers and added Tommy Hanson to blunt the loss of Zack Greinke. The A's, meanwhile, will have to do it again with a somewhat anonymous roster. That anonymity carries over to the fantasy realm, where the A's offer few impact players. Yoenis Cespedes looks like a star in the making, but he's the only premium player on the team. Josh Reddick and Chris Young are likely fantasy starters, Jarrod Parker and Brett Anderson have what it takes to be mid-fantasy-rotation guys and Dan Straily, Tommy Milone and A.J. Griffin should find their way onto rosters in all but the shallowest of leagues. If you're a mixed leaguer, you probably won't dig much deeper than that on this team.
1. Coco Crisp, DH 2. Chris Young, CF 3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF 4. Brandon Moss, 1B 5. Josh Reddick, RF 6. Josh Donaldson, 3B 7. John Jaso/Derek Norris, C 8. Hiroyuki Nakajima/Jed Lowrie, SS 9. Jemile Weeks/Scott Sizemore, 2B
1. Jarrod Parker 2. Brett Anderson 3. Tommy Milone 4. Dan Straily 5. A.J. Griffin
Second base is a bit more interesting since it's a legitimate battle, but it's also less significant since it likely only matters for AL-only leagues. Mixed leaguers shouldn't be counting on either Jemile Weeks or Scott Sizemore to be their starter. This appeared to be Weeks' job for the taking last year, but he struggled to the tune of .221/.305/.304 in 2012. Sizemore missed the entire season with a torn ACL, but he carries a career .239/.329/.382 slash in 592 plate appearances. Neither guy has made a strong case for the job in the past, and they're both well beyond prospect status: Weeks is 26 and Sizemore is 28. Here's something to keep an eye on, though: If both Nakajima and Lowrie hit this spring, manager Bob Melvin could opt to move one of them to second while starting the other at short. The A's do envision Lowrie in the role of a Ben Zobrist-style super-utility man, but if neither Weeks nor Sizemore can hit enough to warrant a starting role, getting Nakajima and Lowrie in the everyday lineup is a likely scenario.
He then hit seven homers in limited duty with the Red Sox in 2011 before exploding for 32 with the A's last year. Moreover, he hit 18 of those homers at cavernous O.co Coliseum in Oakland. Feel free to buy in.
AL-only guys to know