The Oakland Athletics have won the AL West two years in a row, and the biggest part of their success during this time has been pitching. Ironically, fantasy owners searching for pitching studs this year should not look towards the A's rotation, though they have a few solid late-round value picks that could solidify the end of your draft.
2014 Oakland A's - Pitching Staff Preview
Sonny Gray SP
The main guy that everybody is talking about is Sonny Gray. Unfortunately, he only has a small sample size of major league time (10 MLB starts), so it is going to be hard to accurately predict what he will do in his first full season. Gray did have more than a strikeout per inning and an astonishing 2.67 ERA with a low WHIP of 1.11, but I think hitters will pay a lot attention to him this offseason and make the correct adjustments, so those stats will probably go up in 2014. Since he is one of few people on the A’s that gets any media attention, his fantasy ranking will probably be overvalued. Even if Gray’s fantasy ranking is in an average position, I still think many people are going to reach for him because he is part of the growing fan interest in the new, young players that start off successful in their very early career.
Projected 2014 stats: 14-11, 170.1 IP, 168 K, 3.67 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
Scott Kazmir SP
Scott Kazmir is one of the few interesting offseason moves that Oakland made this year. His stats do not blow you off your feet, but they are interesting to look at. His ERA has been less-than-stellar for his whole career (five of his seasons were above a 4.00 ERA), but there are not many pitchers that notch over a K/IP for a full season, and he has been consistent at that. It doesn’t help his fantasy position that he has seen a fair amount of the injury bug. Coming to a new team and considering his inconsistent play, I would not take a chance on drafting him, but he could be a solid waiver wire pickup during the season if you snag him during a hot streak because, let's be honest, you are going to have at least one injured pitcher on your team by the All Star break.
Projected 2014 stats: 8-10, 144.2 IP, 144 K, 4.27 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
The A’s are hoping Jarrod Parker can perform to his potential this year. He has shown very similar numbers in his first two full seasons in the bigs. He is a workhorse, averaging over 190 IP, but he allowed twice as many HR in 2014 as he did in 2013 which, in turn, brought his ERA up a half a point to 3.97. This is not a good sign, but there is optimism that he will adjust to major league hitting. He is a young pitcher that is just a few big league adjustments away from being a stud ace. I think Parker is a decent number four-five for your fantasy rotation with upside for more.
Projected 2014 stats: 14-9, 199 IP, 142 K, 3.45 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
A.J. Griffin SP
After A.J. Griffin’s first full season, he has shown that he can handle the full MLB workload (200.0 IP). He produces a lot of innings and solid strikeouts, and his WHIP was excellent in 2013 (1.13). His ERA was higher than the A’s want out of him (3.83), but I think that will go down drastically this year. Griffin had some rough times last year, but you expect that out of a young pitcher. I think his good stretches were a lot longer than his bad stretches, which makes me think he will progress this year and become a more consistent pitcher in 2014. Not many people are talking about this young, consistent up-and-coming pitcher because of the new addition of top-tier closer Jim Johnson and a rare, media-driven young stud in Sonny Gray. A.J. is my sleeper on this rotation with the adjustments he will make in this offseason. Being able to fly under the radar will keep all the pressure off him. He will thrive in this situation and will be a good mid-to-late round pick.
Projected 2014 stats: 15-7, 211.1 IP, 183 K, 3.33 ERA, 1.16 WHIP
Jim Johnson RP
I saved the best for last... Even with Jim Johnson being a closer, he can very possibly be the most valuable Oakland pitcher in the fantasy world. He has only been a full-time closer for two seasons, both with the Baltimore Orioles, and twice he led the league in saves (51 and 50). His strikeout rate went up from the previous season, so there is no reason he can’t repeat that performance and improve on it. The Coliseum, compared to Camden Yards, is a harder ballpark for hitters, and the A’s have been in more one-run games than any MLB team over the past two seasons. This will mean more save opportunities for Jonson. There is always a chance for somebody to fail to mesh well in a new city and on a new team, but I don’t see this affecting him. He has proven he is a stud closer in this league, and I expect he will have another top-tier season for the A’s.
Projected 2014 stats: 75 IP, 58 K, 54 SV, 2.51 ERA, 1.22 WHIP