Last Updated: March 19
The Money Ball franchise Oakland A’s was a few Bitcoins away from being a contender over the last three seasons. The A’s have a losing season in three straight years while their wins are trending up slightly (68, 69, and 75).
In the past, Oakland has won and built their franchise on the pitching side. In 2017, they finished 23rd in the majors in ERA (4.67) with 165 more runs allowed than 2016 (761) and 254 more runs allowed in their last playoff season in 2014 (572).
Their bullpen lack strength as well (25th in the majors in ERA – 4.57).
The A’s did score 86 more runs than 2016 (653) thanks to a push to fourth in baseball in home runs (234).
They had no major losses in free agency. Oakland acquired OF Stephen Piscotty from the Cardinals for two minor league infielders – SS Yairo Munez and 2B Max Schrock. St. Louis added P Yusmeiro Petit for depth in the bullpen. RP Ryan Buchter was acquired for bullpen depth.
They signed Jonathan Lucroy in mid-March to upgrade the catching position.
The A’s have some young upside offensive players ready to make an impact. When combined with their veteran base, Oakland should be competitive in games when they are hitting home runs. The starting rotation is two front-line starters short of being a contender while the bullpen is full of question arms to fill the late innings.
It looks like the Beane won’t sprout in 2018 leading to another missed playoff berth while possibly disarming some of their veteran players mid-season.
1. SS Marcus Semien
It’s amazing to see what one errant pitch in April can do to a Fantasy team and a major league player. Over the first 11 games of 2017, Semien hit .171 with one HR and 11 RBI in 35 at-bats. He took a pitch off his right wrist on April 15th leading to surgery, and 12 missed weeks of the season. Over his last 307 at-bats, Marcus hit .257 with 48 runs, ten HRs, 39 RBI, and eight SBs. His second half stats projected over 550 at-bats would have been 86 runs, 18 HRs, 70 RBI, and 14 SBs. He had a career-high walk rate (9.8) while his K rate (22.0) fell in line with his last three seasons. HIs CTBA (.331) has been in a tight range over the last five seasons while his average hit rate (1.600) was below his breakout year in power in 2016 (1.830). Siemen struggled against lefties (.224 with three HRs and 11 RBI over 98 at-bats), which was his better side of the plate in 2016 (.257 with 11 HRs and 19 RBI over 148 at-bats). His swing path still produces fly balls (42.1 percent), but his HR/FB rate (9.2) was less than half his 2016 season (20.0) and slightly below his career average (9.2). There’s a nice player here once his minor league resume in speed (45 steals over 1,499 at-bats) develops in the majors. With a leadoff opportunity and 550+ at-bats. Marcus will be a slight drag in batting average with 85+ runs, 20+ HRs, 70+ RBI, and 15+ SBs. For him to push his batting average higher, Semien needs to hit the ball harder.
2. OF Stephen Piscotty
The only positive for Piscotty in 2017 was the growth in his walk rate (13.0 – 7.9 percent for the year). He struggled over the first month of the season (.241 with two HRs and 11 RBI over 79 at-bats) before landing on the DL with a hamstring injury in early May. After a short break after playing five games due to a family issue (Mom’s battle with ALS), Stephen delivered more boring stats over the next six weeks (.244 with four HRs and 19 RBI over 131 at-bats). A groin injury cost him another two weeks after the All-Star game. Over the last two months, he showed more power (eight HRs over 112 at-bats) while his batting average (.232) continued to fail. HIs CTBA (.315) was well below 2016 (.354) with fade in his average hit rate (1.563). On the year, he had only one HR and five RBI vs. lefties (.234 BAA) in 64 at-bats. His swing was empty on too many night vs. RH pitching (.235 BAA). Piscotty had a jump in his GB rate (49.2) in 2017 and fade in his HR/FB rate (10.6). The combination of 2016 (.273 with 22 HRs, 85 RBI, and seven SBs over 582 at-bats) and his minor league resume (.287 with 43 HRs, 207 RBI, and 31 SBs over 1,511 at-bats) is where a Fantasy owner should be making his 2018 decision. With a clearer head and a healthy season, a neutral hitter in batting average with a 15/15 skill set. His walk rate pushes him to a favorable part of the batting order, and his previous RBI rate (21 percent in 2016 and 18 in 2017) gives him a chance at a middle of the order opportunity with more upside in power.
3. 1B Matt Olson
You won’t see many players in major league baseball that have a two double to 24 home run ratio over 189 at-bats. Olson had a massive average hit rate (2.510) in the majors, which may be a bit over his projected path. He’s going to hit a ton of HRs in his career. Over six years in the minors, Matt hit .249 with 126 HRs, 430 HRs, and 15 SBs in 2,405 at-bats. He showed the ability to take a high volume of walks (14.9), but his K rate (24.0) does have risk. With the A’s in 2017, Olson had 60 Ks in 189 at-bats (27.8 percent K rate) while posting a solid walk rate (10.2). Over his last 130 at-bats in Oakland last season, he hit .285 with 20 HRs and 36 RBI with improvement in his Ks (22.3 percent). Matt missed the last week of the year with a hamstring issue. He hit .280 vs. righties with 20 HRs and 39 RBI over 143 at-bats while struggling against LH pitching (.196 with four HRs and six RBI over 46 at-bats). At AAA in 2017, he had a tough time as well vs. lefties (.194 with four HRs and nine RBI over 62 at-bats). Olson finished last year with a massive HR/FB rate (41.4) while hitting a high volume of fly balls (46.0). Pure basher with league-leading power once he figures out how to handle LH pitching. His HRs will drive his value on draft day, but a Fantasy owner needs to be careful and not overpay for a platoon hitter. His approach puts him in the middle of the order while his batting average falls on the improvement of his K rate. Batter overall skill set than Chris Davis, so 50+ HRs is within reach with plenty of RBI. For now, I’d place my bet on a sub .240 batting average.
4. OF Khris Davis
Davis has hit .247 for three straight seasons, which takes care of the first part of his skill set. His AVH (2.136) has been over 2.000 for his last three years. He did show growth in his CTBA (.377), which should have pushed his batting average higher, but more failure in his K rate (29.9) left him at the same place at the finish line. Khris had a career-high walk rate (11.2). After a nice April (.268 with ten HRs and 17 RBI over 82 at-bats), Davis had a losing batting average in three of his next four months (May – .186, July – .207, and August – .200). A September push (.330 over 88 at-bats with seven HRs and 19 RBI) helped him reach his previous failure in average. His batting average woes came against lefties (.213 with seven HRs and 23 RBI over 122 at-bats), which wasn’t his problem in 2016 (.267 with ten HRs and 27 RBI over 131 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (26.9) has been over 24.5 in each of the last three years. His swing path remains balanced (19/41/40). Superpower hitter who made some slight gains at the plate in 2017. I wouldn’t say his batting average is dead in the water if he can shave off a few percentage points off his K rate. More of the same: .250 with 40+ HRs and 100+ RBI.
5. C Jonathan Lucroy
2017 was a strange season for Lucroy after playing at a high level in 2016. He had the best approach at the plate in his career (K rate – 10.6 and walk rate – 9.6), but his average hit rate (1.402) came in well below 2016 (1.713) and his career average (1.539). Jon’s lack of RBIs came from a poor start to the year leading to a drop in the batting order plus a low total in RBI chances (257). Lucroy didn’t have one month with more than two home runs last year. Over the last two seasons, Jonathan only hit .238 vs. lefties while having success against them in power in 2016 (nine HRs over 107 at-bats). His swing path was much weaker last season (groundball rate – 53.5 and fly rate – 27.9) compared to 2016 (GB rate – 37.2 and FB rate – 38.7) and his career (GB rate – 42.7 and FB rate – 34.9). He’s a much better player than his 2017 season, and the A’s should hit him in a favorable part of the batting order. If Lucroy plays well, he should be traded at the All-Star break. Set the bar at .280 with 15 HRs and 65 RBI while understanding there is more upside in his game.
6. OF Matt Joyce
Oakland gave Joyce the best chance to start in his career, and he responded with a career-high in runs (78), HRs (25), and RBI (68). His walk rate (12.4) remained in a strong area with improvement in his K rate (20.8). The growth at the plate should have led to a rise in his batting average, but his CTBA (.320) regressed with the bump in at-bats (469). His AFH (1.947) has been very good in the last two seasons giving him 30+ HRs upside in 550+ at-bats. The A’s won’t give him a real chance against lefties, and Joyce didn’t help his cause by batting .186 with one HR and seven RBI in 79 at-bats vs. LH pitching in 2017. Matt hit .253 against righties with 24 HRs and 61 RBI over 399 at-bats. His push in power came over the last two months of the season (.278 with 12 HRs and 29 RBI over 158 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (16.1) was above his career average (13.0) while regression from 2016 (22.4). Nice backend power hitter who is a better player than most believe. With 450+ at-bats, .260 with 70 runs, 20+ HRs, and 70 RBI while being tough to time in shallow leagues.
7. 3B Matt Chapman
Over four seasons in the minors, Chapman hit .244 with 80 HRs, 203 RBI, and 18 SBs over 1,207 at bats. He has a nice walk rate (10.3) in his minor league career, but his K rate (26.6) has downside risk. His AVH (2.015) is in a 40+ home run area and supported by his last three seasons in the minors. His struggled in batting average tend to come from a lower CTBA (.343). With the A’s last season, his K rate (28.2) and walk rate (9.8) were below his minor league path in both areas. Over his last 249 at-bats in 2017, Chapman hit .240 with 14 HRs and 37 RBI with a 24.9 percent K rate. His swing had a little more value against lefties (.244 with four HRs and 12 RBI over 82 at-bats). Even with strength in HRs in the majors over the last half of last year, his HR/FB rate (13.9) was below his last three seasons in the minors (High A – 20.5, AA – 21.2, and AAA – 24.1 and 27.6). Just like Matt Olson, Chapman has a high fly ball rate (50.5 with A’s in 2017). He has huge bomber upside with a decent approach. His high K total and easy outs in the outfield will lead to a short batting average early in his career. If you want to punt batting average, Matt is a nice low-value power hitting investment. About .240 with 30+ HRs and 80+ RBI with 500+ at-bats.
8. 2B Jed Lowrie
Maybe I’m dismissing Lowrie too early to be a top-two hitter for the A’s at least for the start of 2017. His walk rate (11.3) is a plus with a slight improvement in his K rate (15.5). Hidden in his stat line was a rise in his AVH (1.618) thanks to a career high in doubles (49). In 2013, Jed had 45 doubles and 15 HRs leading to a Fantasy owner hoping he would make a push to 20 home runs the next year. Unfortunately, his swing regressed in 2014 (six HRs) while offering empty power in 2015 (nine HRs) and 2016 (two HRs). Lowrie was at his best vs. RH pitching (.283 with 12 HRs and 56 RBI over 435 at-bats) while not hitting his way out of the starting lineup against lefties (.258 with two HRs and 13 RBI over 132 at-bats). His best production came over the last two months of the season (.289 with four HRs and 34 RBI). Even with a fly ball swing path (44.7 percent) in his career, Jed tends to have a shallow HR/FB rate (6.9 in 2017 and 6.5 in his career). Tough player to roster for me as I’ll be looking for more speed from the middle infield position. If you structure your team the right way, he could make sense thanks to his cheap price point. A neutral hitter with a 70/15/70 skill set with his slot in the batting order determining his chances in runs and RBI. He’ll be a free agent in 2019, so a cup of OJ might do him some good this year.
9. OF Dustin Fowler
The A’s acquired Fowler last summer in a trade with the Yankees for P Sonny Gray. He missed the second half of 2017 due to a blown out patella tendon in his right knee that required surgery. Oakland expects him to be ready for the start of spring training. Over five seasons in the minors, Dustin hit .282 with 39 HRs, 251 RBI, and 74 SBs in 1,694 at-bats. His skill set projects to be a 15/25 type player early in his career, but he does need to improve his success rate (69.8) in steals. HIs walk rate (4.5) isn’t stronger enough to hit at the top of the order out of the gate, but he does limit the damage in strikeouts (17.6 percent K rate). Over the last three seasons, his contact batting average (.372 in 2017) did show more upside with a spike in his average hit rate (1.851) last year. His path is clear for him to seize the starting centerfield job in Oakland. With a full season of at-bats, something in the range of .260 with 15+ HRs and 20+ SBs is well within reach. If he can control the strike zone for the whole year, his game could reach a higher level in his rookie season. Nice backend flier who will gain more momentum in spring training. I’ll start him out at the bottom of the A’s lineup, and he’ll need to hit his way into a better situation.
C Bruce Maxwell
Maxwell appearance to be viable free agent C2 option in 2017 when given close to starting at-bats. With the A’s, his bat never emerged. He hit .237 with three HRs and 22 RBI over 219 at-bats with a strong walk rate (12.3) and some weakness in his K rate (24.9). HIs CTBA (.333 in the majors and .343 in the minors) was below his 2016 season (.400 in the minors and .382 in the majors). His average hit at AAA in 2016 (1.677) and 2017 (1.625) appeared to give him a chance 15+ HRs with 450+ at-bats. Over six seasons in the minors, Bruce hit .267 with 27 HRs and 215 RBI in 1,612 at-bats. His swing path produces a high volume of ground balls (48.9 percent in the majors and over 52.0 percent at AA and AAA). His HR/FB rate (5.9) came in short with Oakland while never consistently falling below 10.0 in his minor league career. Tough believe Maxwell will keep the starting job for the whole year. His batting average may move to a league average area with growth to his minor league resume in his K rate (16.2). Bruce is a decent flier as a C2 in deep leagues as long as he’s starting at least four times a week while adding a home run every other week.
Update: Maxwell has been demoted to backup catcher after Oakland signed Jonathan Lucroy. He has no value in format to start the year.
C Dustin Garneau
Garneau will compete for a backup catching job for the A’s in 2018. He’s spent nine seasons in the minors while never receiving over 350 at-bats in any year. Dustin hit .268 over four seasons at AAA with 45 HRs, 144 RBI, and six SBs over 764 at-bats. His average hit rate has been over 1.650 in each of the last four years at each level of pro ball setting a nice floor in power if given enough playing time in the majors. Garneau will take walks (10.0) with strength in his K rate (15.2). In his limited at-bats (250) in the majors, Dustin struggled to make contact (26.0 percent K rate) with a slightly above the league average walk rate (8.7). Garneau has a fly ball swing (over 45 percent in most seasons). Just a name to follow in case his playing develops better than expected while his swing will deliver 15+ HRs with 400+ at-bats.
OF Boog Powell
Powell has a top of the order approach at the plate. Over six seasons in the minors, he hit .305 with 15 HRs, 155 RBI, and 74 SBs in 1,552 at-bats. His walk rate came in at 11.8 percent with a low K rate (13.8). His average hit rate improved in each season in the minors while peaking at 1.432 in 2017 at AAA. His CTBA was strong at AAA (.389) and the majors (.379) in 2017 helping his floor in batting average. Boog will steal bases, but he has a poor success rate (60.7) in the minors. In his first shot in the majors, Powell hit .282 with three HRs and 12 RBI over 117 at-bats. His K rate (22.2) had more risk in the majors while continuing to take walks (11.1 percent). Powell’s bat projects to be a fourth outfielder thanks to his Judy-like swing while his glove and defense would be an asset in the starting outfield for the A’s. Not ready to make an impact at any form in the Fantasy market while owning a skill set with more upside with better technique on the base paths.
SS Franklin Barreto
Barreto reached the majors in 2017 at age 21, but his swing barely made contact (43.4 percent K rate). Over five seasons in the minors, Franklin hit .292 with 49 HRs, 241 RBI, and 92 SBs over 1,803 at bats. His average hit has been in a tight range in the minors (low – 1.485 and high – 1.657) setting his floor at about 15+ HRs with 500+ at-bats early in his career with Oakland. Barreto had just below the league average K rate (21.3) in the minors while offering a short walk rate (6.0). HIs weaker approach at AAA in 2017 (K rate – 27.6 and walk rate – 5.3) suggests his bat may need more time to develop at AAA. Franklin is a top prospect, and he could come quickly with more patience at the plate. His skill set points 15+ HRs and 30 SBs out of the gate with a starting job. His future looks to be at second base, and he could be in the majors by May pushing Jed Lowrie to a super utility role. Nice bench stash while offering a speed/power out with some batting average risk.
Josh Phegley (C) – Phegley wasn’t healthy in 2017 leading to a poor season (.201 with three HRs and ten RBI over 149 at-bats). His lost playing time came from a concussion and an oblique issue. Josh played well over 225 at-bats with the A’s in 2015 (.249 with nine HRs and 34 RBI) showing his potential upside with an increased role. Over eight seasons in the minors, he hit .267 with 68 HRs and 284 RBI in 1,907 at-bats. 20+ HR power swing if given a starting job. He just needs to stay healthy to help improve his opportunity. Backup catcher for now while possibly being a diamond in the rough as a C2 in deep leagues.
Chad Pinder (IF) – Pinder will compete for a backup infield/outfield role in 2018. His bat played well in the majors last season. Chad hit .238 with 15 HRs and 42 RBI over 282 at-bats despite a high K rate (29.8) and shallow walk rate (5.8). Over five season in the minors, Pinder hit .279 with 46 HRs, 202 RBI, and 27 SBs in 1,510 at-bats. A free swinger with a chance to work his way into a platoon role with Matt Joyce while picking up injury at-bats and some time in the infield.
Renato Nunez (OF) – Nunez looks ready to bash his way onto the A’s roster. Over seven seasons in the minors, Nunez hit .262 with 130 HRs, 465 RBI, and 14 SBs in 2,730 at-bats. He’s now played two full seasons at AAA (.238 with 55 HRs and 153 RBI over 978 at-bats). Renato isn’t a big strikeout guy (21.6) when considering his success in power while having a below-par walk rate (6.4). Middle of the order swing while needing to power he can handle major league pitching. His glove is a negative leading to minimal slots in the field to gain playing time.
1. SP Sean Manaea
Manaea failed to live up to expectation in 2017 due to a fade in his command (3.1 walks per nine), which led to him being easier to hit (.268 BAA). Sean had value against lefties (.227 BAA), but RH batters hit .279 with 16 HRs over 491 at-bats. His season started with two bad outings (nine runs over 11.1 innings), but he only allowed 12 baserunners while flashing K ability (14 Ks). After two good starts (1.64 ERA and .135 BAA), Manaea left his last start in April with left shoulder injury leading to 2+ weeks on the DL. When he returned, Sean pitched well over an 11-game stretch (7-2 with a 2.92 ERA and 67 Ks over 71 innings). Three disaster starts (18 runs and 26 baserunners over 7.1 innings) over his last 12 contests led to a disappointing end to the year (5.55 ERA, .328 BAA, and 1.731 WHIP). HIs AFB (92.2) was a step below his previous two seasons (2015 – 93.6 and 2016 – 93.3). Manaea has a plus slider (.168 BAA), but he lost his feel for his changeup (.267 BAA – .203 in 2016). Sean has a strong minor league resume (16-9 with a 2.84 ERA and 265 Ks over 221.2 innings). His failed season will create a better buying opportunity in the 2018 draft season. Manaea is a big guy who needs to throw more strikes. A viable chance at a 3.50 ERA with 175+ Ks with a bump to 200 innings pitched. An excellent option as an SP4 in 15 teams league with an early ADP of 254.
2. SP Kendall Graveman
Graveman looked to be on the rise over his first four starts in 2017 (2-1 with a 2.25 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and 16 Ks over 24 innings). He struggled in two of his next four contests (14 runs and 36 baserunners over 23 innings) leading to a trip to the DL for two and half months with a right shoulder injury. After a bad game on August 3rd (seven runs and nine baserunners over two innings) in his first start after the DL, Kendall allowed two runs or fewer in six of his last ten starts (3.51 ERA). HIs K rate (6.0) is extremely low with some regression in his walk rate (2.7). Hidden behind his season was a jump in his fastball (94 3 – 93.2 in 2016). His only pitch of value I 2017 was his curveball (.174 BAA). Low K ability inning eater who has the talent to make a step forward when he finds a swing and miss type pitch. HIs minor league resume (17-11 with a 2.46 ERA and 161 Ks over 241.1 innings) points to developing upside. Manageable double starter or home play option (5-0 in 2017 in Oakland with a 2.94 ERA). A move to a sub 4.00 ERA with losing value in Ks.
3. SP Jharel Cotton
Cotton’s short success in the majors in 2016 (2-0 with a 2.15 ERA and 23 Ks over 29.1 innings) didn’t translate into a winning year in 2017. He struggled to throw strikes (3.7 walks per nine) and keep the ball in the ballpark (2.0 home runs per nine). Last season he didn’t have a stretch where he allowed three runs or fewer in three straight games with the A’s. Jharel did pitch better over four games at AAA (3-0 with a 2.95 ERA and 28 Ks over 21.1 innings). Cotton has a nice minor league resume (3.65 ERA and 527 Ks over 468.1 innings) highlighted by his walk rate (2.6) and K rate (10.1). His fly ball pitching style (46.3 percent in the majors in 2017) led to a huge HR/FB rate (15.3). He lost some value on his fastball (93.6). Cotton has a plus changeup (.217 BAA), but his lack of command of his other pitches in and out of the strikeout led to failed results. Not an edge pitcher at this point in his career, but Jharel is better than his lack of success in 2017. Set the bar at a 4.00 ERA with 150+ Ks while understanding his command could lead to a much better year in 2018.
4. SP Daniel Mengden
A February right foot injury led to Daniel having surgery on Valentine’s day. Mengden returned to the mound on May 8th in the minors. He threw the ball well over his first four games (2.21 ERA with 20 Ks over 20.1 innings) leading to a call-up to the majors. With Oakland, his stuff lost value (10.13 ERA, 2.000 WHIP, and .371 BAA) over two short starts. A rib injury led to two months on the DL in the minors. After building back up his arm strength at AAA over five starts (6.10 ERA and 1.888 WHIP), Daniel was overlooked by Fantasy owners when he called up in September. HIs stuff took off for the A’s over five starts (1.54 ERA and 26 Ks over 35 innings) helped by much better command (1.5 walks per nine). His AFB (92.5) is below the league average. In September, batters struggled against his four-seam fastball (.191 BAA), curveball (.000 BAA), and slider (.158 BAA) while his changeup invited downside (.438 BAA). Over four seasons in the minors, Mengden went 22-10 with a 2.93 ERA and 286 Ks over 286 innings. He tends to have a low walk rate (2.7) and strength in his K rate (9.0). Reasonable gamble late in drafts while still having some disaster risk. Sub 3.75 ERA with 150 Ks with 30 starts in the majors.
5. SP Paul Blackburn
Over six years in the minors, Paul went 34-23 with a 3.21 ERA with 344 Ks over 496 innings. He handled himself well at AAA (3.05 ERA with 56 Ks over 79.2 innings) last year leading to a call-up to the majors. With the A’s, Paul went 3-1 with a 3.22 ERA and only 22 Ks over 58.2 innings. His K rate (3.4) had to be the lowest in the majors in 2017 with over 50 innings pitched while offering a low walk rate (2.5). Blackburn is a groundball pitcher (56.3 percent in the majors) with a high HR/FB rate (10.2). He has a short fastball (91.0) while his changeup (.100 BAA) came in as his second best pitch. His season ended early in September after taking a line drive to his right wrist. A soft tosser with a questionable fastball and weak secondary pitches invites more risk than reward. If his sinker is working and he’s throwing strikes, Blackburn can get batters out. I just fear his bad days.
6. SP A.J. Puk
The A’s selected Puk 6th overall in the 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft. With 1+ season under his belt in the minors, A.J. went 6-14 with a 3.82 ERA and 224 Ks over 157.2 innings. His walk rate (3.4) needs growth while offering an elite K rate (12.8). Puk has an upper 90s fastball with a swing and miss slider. His changeup is still developing. He has 13 starts under his belt at AA (4.78) pointing to a push to AAA early in 2018. If his game holds up at that level, A.J. will be on the fast track to Oakland. Arm to follow this spring as his K ability will be a major drawing card in his career.
7. SP Frankie Montas
Over eight seasons in the minors, Montas had a 3.89 ERA and 449 Ks over 428 innings. He has a good K rate (9.4), but he still walks too many batters (3.6 per nine). Even with struggles at AAA in 2017 (5.22 ERA and 37 Ks over 29.1 innings), Frankie was able to make 23 appearances in the majors with plenty of disaster risk. He allowed ten HRs over 32 innings with a huge ERA (7.03) and WHIP (1.844). His stuff had no value against lefties (.354 BAA with 12 walks and 11 Ks over 55 at-bats). Montas has a huge fastball (98.4) while featuring a slider and low volume changeup. His lack of a third pitch will hurt his value as a starter early in his career. Live arm, but he has a lot to prove headed into 2018. He may be closer to the 9th inning than the starting rotation.
CL Blake Treinen
The Nationals gave Treinen the closing job out of spring training, and he looked dominant on opening day (one shutout inning with two Ks and a save). Twenty-three days later, Blake had a 10.00 ERA and 2.667 WHIP with no chance at closing. His failure (4.97 ERA and .309 AA) continued over the next 25.1 innings, which led to Treinen being traded to Oakland. He pitched well enough in July and August (1.71 ERA over 26.1 innings with 27 Ks) to earn the closing job with the A’s (seven saves). Blake struggled over this first four games in September (four runs and eight baserunners over 4.2 innings) before tossing 9.1 shutout innings with 11 Ks and six saves. In the end, Treinen had growth in his walk rate (3.0) with a career-high K rate (8.8). Blake struggled with lefties (.302 with five Ks over 129 at-bats). He has an elite fastball (97.7 – career high) plus an edge with his slider (.182 BAA) and changeup (.158 BAA). Plenty of holes in his closing resume with the lack of length making him a risky investment. His arm did offer more upside in Oakland (2.13 ERA, 2.8 walks per nine, and 9.9 Ks per nine), which gives him an early chance at saves for the A’s in April. Sometimes the less attractive options for saves end up offering the most productive seasons.
RP Ryan Dull
Over four years in the minors, Ryan had a 2.03 ERA with 262 Ks and 42 saves. He had an edge in command (2.1 walk rate) with strength in his K rate (11.1). In 2015 with the A’s, Dull struggled with the long ball (four HRs over 17 innings) with a drop in his walk rate (3.2). His resume shined in 2016 in the majors when he posted a 2.42 ERA with 73 Ks over 74.1 innings while allowing only 50 hits (.186 BAA). Over the first six weeks of 2017, Ryan had too much disaster risk (6.32 ERA and 1.47 WHIP), which ended up being a right knee injury that led to eight weeks on the DL. When Dull returned in late July, he had a 4.44 ERA and 1.139 WHIP with his failure tied to five HRs allowed over 26.1 innings. His AVB (91.8) remains short with his out pitch being his slider (.158 BAA). 2017 was a throwout season. With a rebound in his command, Ryan should have a chance to pitch in the late innings for the A’s. His lack of fastball may hurt his chance to close if the opportunity presents itself.
RP Liam Hendriks
Liam pitched his way out of contention for a starting role in 2014 (5.92 ERA over his first 188.2 innings in the majors was 123 Ks). Over the last three seasons in the bullpen, his arm has emerged (3.63 ERA) with flashes of closing upside during the year. Last season Hendriks had a career high K rate (11.0) even with a step back in his walk rate (3.2 – 1.7 in 2015 and 2016). In 2017, he had way too many disaster outings before the All-Star break leading to a poor ERA (5.40 ERA) and WHIP (1.445). Liam saved his season with a nice run over his last 18 innings (one run, nine hits, two walks, and 20 Ks). He pitched the best against lefties (.206 BAA) while holding his own vs. RH batters (.243 BAA). His AFB (95.4) has been strong in a relief role with batters hitting .252 against his four-seamer in 2017. His best pitch continues to be his slider (.162 BAA). Nice arm who needs to regain his command and avoid bad outing to become a trusted Fantasy option.
RP Ryan Buchter
After spending 12 seasons in the minors with five coming at AAA (9-5 with a 3.07 ERA and 134 Ks over 184.2 innings), Ryan finally had his chance in the majors with the Padres in 2016. Over the last two years, he went 9-5 with a 2.85 ERA and 144 Ks over 129.1 innings. His walk rate (4.0) still has risk, but it is much better than his minor league career (5.9). In 2017, he had fewer walks (3.6 per nine innings), but his K rate (9.0) regressed as well from the previous season (11.1). Buchter has a league average fastball (93.2) while batters struggled to hit all of his pitches (four-seam fastball – 1.68 BAA, slider – .208 BAA, curveball – .222 BAA, and cutter – .211 BAA). He had success against both RH (.193 BAA) and LH (.176 BAA) hitters. Closer worthy if he can figure out how to throw more strikes. Top lefty in the Royals bullpen headed into 2018.
- Baseball America Prospect Handbook. (n.d.).
- Baseball-Reference. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.baseball-reference.com/
- Brooksbaseball.net. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.brooksbaseball.net/
- Fangraphs. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fangraphs.com/
- Roster Resource. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rosterresource.com/mlb
- RotoWire. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rotowire.com/
- Rotoworld. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rotoworld.com/
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