The Oakland Athletics defied all odds when they won the 2012 American League West division title. Despite having a payroll less than half as big as the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers, Oakland’s late season surge was just enough to edge out the superior competition. Their young core will enter the 2013 season with one more year of experience and every bit of it will be necessary to compete in an arduous division. Oakland may not boast the most talented lineup, but don’t underestimate their key players in fantasy baseball drafts.
One of the best rising stars and most underrated young players in baseball is Yoenis Cespedes. In his rookie season, Cespedes excelled in all aspects of the game to the tune of .292, 23 home runs, 83 RBIs and 16 steals. After successfully overcoming the transition to the United States, Cespedes should be ready to build on his early success. The most positive indication from his rookie season was his .311 batting average after the all-star break. All signs point to Cespedes being capable of hitting .300 with 30 homers, which would easily make him a top-10 fantasy outfielder.
Josh Reddick and his 32 home runs were also essential to the middle of Oakland’s lineup. After demonstrating limited power in the generous dimensions of Fenway Park, Reddick put all doubts to rest with a breakout season.
One of the more intriguing sleepers in fantasy baseball will be rookie Japanese shortstop, Hiroyuki Nakajima. He does not have extensive power but should reach double digit home runs while serving as an effective run producer. Nakajima had a career batting average of .310 but it’s unpredictable whether that will translate over to American soil.
The other unsung transaction may be the addition of infielder, Jed Lowrie. Lowrie will likely bat second and serve in a table setting role for Cespedes and Reddick. Lowrie effectively gets on base and has begun to show flashes of power with 34 extra base hits in 97 games last season.
The most appealing aspect of this young Oakland team is their pitching staff. 25-year-old ace, Brett Anderson, has struggled to stay healthy over the past two years but pitched to a 2.57 ERA over six starts last season. He appears to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and has already been named Oakland’s opening day starter. Anderson is a prime candidate for a breakout season with the upside as a number two fantasy starter.
Even younger and equally as talented is Jarrod Parker. Parker managed a 3.47 ERA and showed signs of dominance by flirting with a no-hitter in his rookie season. He will combine with Anderson to form one of the most underrated and best young pitching duos in baseball.
Oakland’s top five fantasy hitters: 1. Yoenis Cespedis, 2. Josh Reddick, 3. Brandon Moss, 4. Hiroyuki Nakajima, 5. Coco Crisp
Oakland’s top three fantasy pitchers: 1. Brett Anderson, 2. Jarrod Parker, 3. Dan Straily.
Oakland projected record: 83-79
Stay tuned over the next month while I preview one team each day in preparation for the 2013 baseball season.