The Athletics finished with a winning record (86-76) for the fourth straight season, but their three-year playoff run ended in 2021. Oakland has had six trips to the postseason over the past decade. The A’s last appearance in the World Series came in 1990. Their franchise had nine World Series titles (Philadelphia A’s – 1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, and 1930 ~ Oakland A’s – 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1989).
Oakland slipped to 13th in ERA (4.02), partly due to regression in their bullpen (29 wins, 24 losses, and 39 saves with a 4.21 ERA – 18th). The A’s ranked 10th in runs (743), 13th in home runs (199), and eighth in stolen bases (88). Their Moneyball theme failed to execute, based on their weaker on-base percentage (.317 – 14th).
In mid-November, the Athletics acquired SP Brent Honeywell in a minor deal with Tampa Bay for cash. However, injuries have derailed his career from 2018 to 2020. Oakland lost OF Starling Marte (NYM), OF Mark Canha (NYM), C Yan Gomes (CHC), RP Trevor Rosenthal, RP Jake Diekman, RP Sergio Romo, and RP Yusmeiro Petit to free agency. All players added came via minor league deals.
The starting lineup for the A’s looks to be in transition while only having two remaining power bats (1B Matt Olson and 3B Matt Chapman). C Sean Murphy has yet to reach his ceiling, but no other player stands out. OF Ramon Laureano has 27 games remaining on his suspension for PEDs. SS Nick Allen is their highest ranking prospect with a chance to be on the major league roster early in the season. Oakland will surely snatch up multiple veteran players at a discount after the lockout.
Their bullpen needs someone to set up and become their true closer. RP Lou Trivino filled some of that void last season, but his lack of command leads to some self-created drama. RP A.J. Puk has the arm to be elite, but he needs to stay healthy.
Oakland should have five arms to keep them in games when the lights come on in April for the regular season. However, they are still searching for someone to become a frontline starter to help the A’s make a deeper run in the postseason.
2B Tony Kemp
Before last season, Kemp worked off the bench for the Astros, Cubs, and A’s. In his first 750 major league at-bats, he hit .235 with 104 runs, 15 home runs, 74 RBI, and 19 steals.
In 2021, he had his best career opportunity, leading career-highs in almost all of his stats. His batting average (.279) paired with his walk rate (13.1) gave the A’s a viable leadoff bat. Kemp also lowered his strikeout rate (12.7) with Oakland.
Despite the appearance of success, he never had over 85 at-bats in any month last year. His approach (17 walks and 18 strikeouts) held up against left-handed pitching, but Kemp only hit .240 with two home runs and 10 RBI over 75 at-bats. Over his final 30 games, he hit .363 with 17 runs, four home runs, 16 RBI, and three stolen bases over 91 at-bats.
Kemp played well over six seasons in the minor (.312 with 409 runs, 25 home runs, 233 RBI, and 144 stolen bases over 2,187 at-bats).
He finished last year with a higher launch angle (18.4) while ranking poorly on barrel rate (1.0) and hard-hit rate (21.9).
His last year’s stats projected over 550 at-bats came to 90 runs, 13 home runs, 62 RBI, and 13 stolen bases. Kemp can help fantasy teams if given a starting job at the top of the batting order. However, his ADP (409) paints him as a bench player in deep leagues. For now, he works best as a short-term injury replacement.
OF Ramon Laureano
Nine games into 2021, fantasy managers had the feeling they struck gold with Laureano based on his insane start in steals (eight in nine tries) and his early success (11-for-36 with eight runs, one home run, and four RBI). Unfortunately, he finished April with no stolen bases and an empty bat (.172/5/2/5 over 58 at-bats). However, his production rebounded over his next 30 games (.297 with 21 runs, 10 home runs, and 18 RBI over 111 at-bats) while not attempting a stolen base.
Major league baseball suspended him for 80 games in early August, which may have been reflected in his play over his final 34 games (.221/9/1/12/4 over 136 at-bats).
Laureano has been a bust in back-to-back seasons. With less JUICE in his bat, his outlook will be more challenging to digest in 2022. His strikeout rate (25.9) remains high, with a step back in his walk rate (7.1).
With 27 more games left on his suspension, his ADP (225) is much lower than 2021 (145). Laureano ranked 63rd for hitters by SIscore (1.17) in 2019 despite only playing in 123 games. His minor league resume suggested more stolen bases (100 over 1,466 at-bats). As the 137th hitter drafted in the NFBC in late January, Laureano should outperform his price point when adding replacement stats from another player for his missed at-bats. Possible 20/20 player even with 450 at-bats.
3B Matt Chapman
Chapman missed the final three weeks of 2019 with a torn right labrum in his hip that required surgery. His stats over 37 games projected over 550 at-bats would come to 85 runs, 39 home runs, and 97 RBI.
Over the last two seasons, he had a significant spike in his strikeout rate (33.1 – 22.8 in 2018 and 2019). However, Chapman had a rebound in his walk rate (12.9) last year. His regression in his contact and injuries led to a fading batting average over the previous three seasons.
Chapman hit under .190 in April (.189), July (.180), and September (.136). His best value in power came in August (nine home runs and 16 RBI) while playing the best in June (.277/18/6/21 over 94 at-bats). Chapman had the most struggles at home (.185/33/10/29 over 260 at-bats).
His quest for home runs led to high volume fly-ball swing path in 2020 (50.6) and 2021 (51.8), resulting in many easy outs.
The bottom line with Chapman is that he must control the strikeout zone better. He always had strength in his average hit rate (1.919) and a swing to produce plenty of home runs. However, his ADP (187) puts him more into the corner infield conversation than a target for third base. Chapman may have a rebound in batting average, but I’m not on that side of the equation. At this point, he has the feel of a .240 hitter with 80 runs, 30 home runs, and 90 RBI.
1B Matt Olson
Olson finished last year with the best approach in his time with the A’s. His strikeout rate (16.8) improved dramatically from 2020 (31.4) and his career average (26.1). In addition, over the past two years, he raised his walk rate to an elite level (13.3).
Surprisingly, Olson blistered left-handed pitching (.270 over 222 at-bats with 22 home runs and 50 RBI). His average hit rate (1.993) continues to be in a plus power-producing area. He had a rebound in his contact batting average (.338) while remaining below his success in 2019 (.374). Olson finished with five and seven home runs each month, helping his consistency factor.
His fly-ball rate (43.7) has been in a tight range in his major league career. He ranked highly in hard-hit rate (48.8 – 37th) and barrel rate (12.7 – 49th). Olson set a career-high in home runs (39), but his HR/FB rate (19.3) came in below his previous two seasons (2019 – 23.7 and 2020 – 24.1).
Before 2021, Olson looked like a two-category player (home runs and RBIs). His growth in walks points to a higher floor in runs. He moved to third in the first baseman preseason rankings by ADP (43) in the NFBC. The A’s lineup lacks depth, pointing to fewer runs and RBIs. His batting average could improve with a repeated approach. Olson does have a 50 home run swing path, but my bet is on a .265/85/40/100 season. His key this year is repeating his success against lefties.
C Sean Murphy
Coming into the majors, Murphy had the upside tag as a prospect. Unfortunately, there has been more frustration than excitement in his bat with Oakland. He has never had more than 400 at-bats in any pro season.
Over his 182 career games in the majors, Murphy hit .222 with 82 runs, 28 home runs, and 81 RBI over 562 at-bats with no rhythm against left-handed pitching (.210 with seven home runs and 23 RBI over 176 at-bats). Murphy hit under .230 every month, with his only spark coming in June (.222 with five home runs and 15 RBI over 72 at-bats).
His HR/FB rate (14.8) was a career-low with a balanced swing path. He finished with continued fade in his contact batting average (.305). Murphy hit well with runners on base (RBI rate – 17) while finishing with a high average hit rate (1.871).
He hit .267 in the minors over 855 at-bats with 146 runs, 34 home runs, and 129 RBI. His approach (strikeout rate – 17.1 and walk rate – 9.2) pointed to a higher ceiling in the majors.
Other than missed games, Murphy has an impactful power swing. His minor league resume suggests a much better player. He is the 14th catcher drafted in late January in the NFBC with an ADP of 243. Murphy is a bet on the come player, and he could pop this year. His next step is a 60/20/60 floor with a chance at a bounce in batting average.
SS Elvis Andrus
Andrus played well in 2019 with help in runs (81), home runs (12), RBI (74), and batting average (.275). His only edge came in stolen bases (31). In the end, he ranked 34th in SIscore (3.52).
He lost his way over the past two seasons (.235 with 71 runs, six home runs, 44 RBI, and 15 stolen bases over 600 at-bats). Andrus had a sharp decline in his average hit rate (1.314), and his contact batting average (.291) no longer has a pulse.
Andrus finished with a low strikeout rate (15.0) in 2021, with a fade in his walk rate (5.7). His fly-ball rate (29.6) has been short in his whole career. Fantasy managers with the best eyesight can’t see his disappearing HR/FB rate (2.4) and empty hard-hit rate (2.1).
The only positive for Andrus heading into 2022 is that Oakland may have to wheel him out every day until a better option develops. The A’s are on the hook for $6.75 million and potentially another $15 million with 452 plate appearances in 2022. His ADP (594) smells of a pure avoid. Only worth a ride if his bat flashes early in the season.
OF Stephen Piscotty
Piscotty continues to fade off of fantasy manager's cheat sheet. Over the last three years, he missed 174 games with 77 runs, 23 home runs, 89 RBI, and seven stolen bases over 689 at-bats. His bat offered starting value in 2018 (.267/78/27/88 over 546 at-bats).
Last year a left wrist injury led to a couple of stints on the injured list and surgery in late August.
His strikeout rate (28.1) has become a problem over the previous two seasons. Piscotty also took fewer walks (6.1 percent).
Piscotty doesn’t look like much in fantasy drafts, but he could very well have a starting job all year with a healthy season. Unfortunately, his ADP (713) is so far down that even past believers won’t dig deep enough. As a result, Piscotty is only a waiver-wire option if he shows a spark and power early in the year.
OF Seth Brown
Brown had a slow rise through the A’s system over six seasons. However, his bat emerged in 2017 at High A (.270/80/30/109/7 over 518 at-bats). He continued to improve at AA and AAA before finally getting his chance with the A’s at age 28.
Oakland gave him platoon at-bats against right-handed pitching (.220/19/46 over 259 at-bats) in 2021. Brown only had 22 at-bats vs. lefties (3-for-22 with one home run and two RBI). His strikeout rate (29.0) was a liability, close to a league-average walk rate (7.5).
He brought a high fly-ball swing (50.0 percent) to the majors, highlighted by his launch angle (20.9).
Brown offers plenty of power, and his path to the majors suggests he’ll make progress with more experience with Oakland. However, his swing and miss approach against lefties probably caps his playing time at 450 at-bats unless the A’s bump him to the bench by signing a free agent.
OF Chad Pinder
Over the previous five years, Pinder hit .244 with 162 runs, 49 home runs, and 151 RBI over 1,191 at-bats while seeing time at 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, and OF.
Pinder missed most of the last five weeks of 2020 with a hamstring issue. He had two extended trips on the injured list last season with knee and hamstring injuries.
He had a below-average approach. Pinder had more success against left-handed pitching (.265 with 24 home runs and 69 RBI over 539 at-bats).
Pinder fits the utility role for Oakland. He’ll hit home runs, but batting average tends to be a liability.
SP Frankie Montas
After a breakthrough half of a season in 2019 (9-2 with a 2.63 ERA and 103 strikeouts), Montas tripped up the next season (5.60 ERA) due to regression in his walk rate (3.9) and home runs allowed (10 over 53 innings).
Last year he stumbled twice over his first four starts (14 runs, 29 baserunners, and five home runs over 18.2 innings), giving fantasy managers buyer’s remorse. After 15 games, Montas still had a 4.79 ERA, thanks to another disaster showing (eight runs, 11 baserunners, and two home runs over 5.2 innings). His arm impressed over his final 17 starts (2.24 ERA and 120 strikeouts over 104.1 innings).
His average fastball (96.6) remained an edge in velocity. Montas featured a devastating split-finger fastball in 2019 (.159 BAA) and 2021 (.126 BAA). Batters struggled to hit his four-seam fastball (.212 BAA), but he lost the feel for his slider (.270 BAA) and sinker (.303 BAA).
Last year, Montas was the 25th most valuable pitcher by SIscore (2.01).
Heading into 2022, I trust Montas much more than after his 2019 success. He brings strikeout ability (10.0 per nine) with improving command. His ceiling is all about pitching ahead in the count, helping the value of his split-finger fastball. Montas now has an SP2 ADP (86) in the high-stakes market in the NFBC. Possible help in wins with a 3.00 ERA and 225 strikeouts.
SP Chris Bassitt
Bassitt pitched well in his minor league career (33-25 with a 3.50 ERA and 501 strikeouts over 519.1 innings) while struggling to stay healthy and prove his worth in the majors.
Over the last three seasons with Oakland, he went 27-11 with a 3.26 ERA and 355 strikeouts over 364.1 innings. His growth came from a lower walk rate (2.5) and an improved strikeout rate (8.8). Bassitt allowed three runs or fewer in 19 of his first 24 starts.
A line drive to the face in mid-August cost Bassitt about a month.
Bassitt finished with a slight dip in his fastball (93.5 MPH). Batters had a tough time vs. his four-seamer (.179 BAA), curveball (.143 BAA), slider (.119 BAA), and changeup (.196 BAA). Most of his struggle came via his cutter (.333 BAA).
Bassitt hasn’t pitched enough innings in a season to be considered a frontline fantasy starter. However, he was on a path for 180 innings last year, which should be his bar in 2022. His command continues to improve, along with the depth of his pitches. Bassitt has an ADP of 140 in late January in the NFBC. At a minimum, I expect double-digit wins with a 3.25 ERA and 180 strikeouts. For reference, he finished 27th in SIscore (1.78) for pitchers last season.
SP Sean Manaea
Manaea had flashes of brilliance last year, but he gave away any gains with his six disaster starts (34 runs, 53 baserunners, and 12 home runs over 21 innings). From May 18th to July 28th, over 13 starts, Manaea posted a 2.26 ERA and 92 innings over 79.2 innings. His season ended with a 5.88 ERA, 11 home runs, and 57 strikeouts over 56.2 innings.
He struggled against right-handed batters (.271 with 18 home runs over 535 at-bats). His average fastball (92.0) was his highest since 2016. Manaea had success with his slider (.215 BAA) and changeup (.237 BAA), but both pitches had less value against righties (slider – .279 and changeup – .257 BAA).
Manaea set a career-best in his strikeout rate (9.7) while continuing to post a low walk rate (2.1). He needs to clean up the damage with home runs (1.3 HR/9).
When digging behind Manaea's stats, there are signs that his whole package hasn't arrived. Many fantasy managers will focus on his command and good outings, but he can’t become an elite arm with more success against right-handed batters and better consistency. His ADP (150) almost matches his SIscore (-0.80) as the 56th ranked pitcher in 2021. I’m looking for more upside, and his ride was too bumpy last year.
SP James Kaprielian
The Yankees drafted Kaprielian in the first round of the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft. However, from 2015 to 2016, he made only eight appearances (2.45 ERA and 36 strikeouts over 29.1 innings) due to a right elbow injury that didn’t have TJ surgery until April of 2017.
In 2018 after a trade to the A’s, Kaprielian developed a right shoulder issue followed by a lat injury in February of 2019. He finally returned to the mound on May 15th at High A. Over his first 11 games, Kaprielian posted a 4.46 ERA and 43 strikeouts over 36.1 innings. His arm made a step forward over eight games between AA and AAA (1.71 ERA and 32 strikeouts over 31.2 innings).
Kaprielian allowed three runs or fewer in 14 of his first 16 starts, leading to a 3.25 ERA and 87 strikeouts over 88.2 innings. He appeared to have a dead arm over the final 30.2 innings (6.46 ERA, seven home runs, and 36 strikeouts).
His average fastball (93.3) came in at about the league average. Kaprielian offered a plus slider (.217 BAA) and curveball (.103 BAA). Batters had 12 home runs off his four-seam fastball (.245 BAA). He also had some success with his sinker (.233 BAA) and changeup (.233 BAA).
There is a lot to like about Kaprielian’s arm, except that he has never pitched over 125 innings in any season in his career. His arm does need work against lefties (.266 with seven home runs, 31 walks, and 53 strikeouts over 222 at-bats). Kaprielian is priced to pay based on his ADP (338). Oakland should push him to 150 innings this year. Possible double-digit wins with a sub 3.75 ERA and 150 strikeouts.
SP Cole Irvin
Irvin pitched well over four seasons in the minors (34-15 with a 3.07 ERA and 351 strikeouts over 452 innings). However, in his second stint at AAA in 2019, he was easier to hit (.292 BAA) while allowing 13 home runs over 93.2 innings.
Oakland acquired him last winter, and they slipped him into the starting rotation. Over his first 22 starts, Irvin went 8-10 with a 3.45 ERA and 94 strikeouts over 130.1 innings. However, his lack of depth in a season led to failure over his final 48 innings (34 runs, 86 baserunners, and 12 home runs), leading to a 6.38 ERA.
His average fastball (91.0) was below-par while relying on a changeup, slider, curveball, sinker, and four-seamer.
Despite his struggles, Irvin has a chance to build off his early success in 2021. Unfortunately, his stats look shaky other than his minor league resume. His ADP (524) puts him in the free-agent pool in all formats. Nevertheless, Irvin should be worth a double-start early with sneaky buy-and-hold upside.
SP Brent Honeywell
Over five seasons in the minors, Honeywell went 36-23 with a 3.06 ERA and 525 strikeouts in 497.2 innings. His command was excellent (2.1 walk rate), with strength in his strikeout rate (9.5 ).
He should have been in the majors in 2018 after making 24 starts at AAA (12-8 with a 3.64 ERA and 152 strikeouts over 123.2 innings). Instead, Honeywell missed two seasons with the right elbow injury (TJ surgery) and a setback in 2019 that required a second surgery.
After two more elbow surgeries in 2020, he finally returned to game action last year. Over 31 appearances at AAA, Honeywell posted a 3.97 ERA and 67 strikeouts over 81.2 innings. In September, Tampa gave him 4.1 innings, but he allowed four runs, eight baserunners, and two home runs.
His average fastball (94.2) still had plenty of life. In addition, Honeywell had success with his changeup (.167 BAA) and slider (no hits over 20 pitches). He also has an upside screwball.
The Rays selected him in the second round in the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft.
The A’s have a knack for plucking upside arms at a low point in other systems. Honeywell could be a sneaky closing arm, but his health remains a concern.
SP Daulton Jefferies
After a successful college career (15-13 with a 2.77 ERA and 186 strikeouts over 221.1 innings), Jefferies blew out his right elbow in 2017, leading to TJ surgery and two wasted seasons.
Oakland worked as a starter and reliever in 2019 at High A and AA. He finished with a 3.42 ERA and 93 strikeouts over 79 innings. His command (1.1 walks per nine) has been exceptional in his limited innings (99.1) in the minors while adding a high strikeout rate (11.0).
Last year Jefferies lost his way at AAA (5.14 ERA, 1.312 WHIP, and 13 home runs over 77 innings with 68 strikeouts). His minor league season started with a right biceps issue. Over 15 innings with Oakland, he allowed six runs and 15 baserunners with only eight strikeouts. Unfortunately, Jefferies ended the year with a right elbow issue.
His average fastball (93.4) was league average. His only value pitch was his changeup (.143 BAA) while also offering cutter, slider, sinker, and four-seam fastball.
Jefferies has a lot to prove until his right elbow shows it can handle a full workload. However, his command invites intrigue once he is ready to keep a starting job in the majors. A push to the bullpen may be the right move for Oakland.
RP Lou Trivino
Trivino started his career in the minors as a starter before converting to the bullpen in 2016. Over six seasons on the farm, he went 30-27 with a 3.93 ERA, 356 strikeouts, and nine saves over 423.2 innings. Trivino had a high walk rate (3.3) with a dull strikeout rate (7.6).
In 2018 with the A’s, he went 8-3 with a 2.92 ERA, 82 strikeouts, and four saves over 74 innings. After a poor 2019 season (5.25 ERA and 1.533 WHIP), Trivino regained some momentum the following year (3.86 ERA and 26 strikeouts over 23.1 innings).
In mid-April in 2021, the A’s gave him their closing job. Trivino converted 22 of his 26 saves, but he did have a disaster game in May (five runs over one-third of an inning) and a trainwreck stretch over five games in late August and early September (13 runs and 13 baserunners over 3.2 innings).
His average fastball (95.8) remains an asset. Batters struggled to hit his curveball (.042 BAA), changeup (.132 BAA), and his four-seamer (.165 BAA). Trivino lost the feel for his cutter (.279 BAA) while his sinker (.321 BAA) remained a problem.
Even with success closing games, Trivino doesn’t have the command (4.2 walks per nine) to keep the job. His ADP (289) seems fair, but he may only help a team out of the gate for saves. So I’m going to fade him in 2022.
RP A.J. Puk
The A's selected Puk sixth overall in the 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft.
After posting a 4.03 ERA and 184 strikeouts over 124 innings at High A and AA in 2017, he blew out his left elbow in April of 2018, which led to TJ surgery.
Puk struggled over his first five games in 2019 (six runs and 15 baserunners over 8.1 innings with 13 strikeouts) at High A and AA. He had a 4.24 ERA and 25 strikeouts over 17 innings over his next 13 games before a late-August call-up to the majors. Puk finished with a 3.18 ERA and 13 strikeouts over 11.1 innings. A left shoulder injury that required surgery cost led to him missing 2020.
After one appearance on April 5th (no runs over 3.1 innings with four strikeouts) last season, Puk landed on the injured list with a biceps issue. His arm offered no value at AAA (6.10 ERA over 48.2 innings). In August, he made some progress (4.15 ERA and 10 strikeouts over 8.2 innings), but Oakland parked him in the barn after three poor games in September (five runs, nine baserunners, and two strikeouts over 1.1 innings).
His average fastball (95.8) was about 1.5 MPH slower than in 2019. Puk struggled with his slider and a low-volume changeup.
Puk has an explosive arm, but his walk rate (3.5 in the minors) and battles with injuries make him a wild card again in 2022. His ADP (575) puts him off fantasy manager's radar in the NFBC. He may be closer to another TJ surgery than helping Oakland or fantasy teams. His spring training health and success will drive his draft value.
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