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MLB Team Roundup: Oakland Athletics

Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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Oakland Athletics

2022 Record: 60-102

Team ERA: 4.52 (24th)
Team OPS: .626 (30th)

What Went Right

Not a whole heck of a lot, but, a few things. In what very well could have been his last year as a member of the Athletics, Sean Murphy had a solid season; hitting 18 homers with an OPS+ of 120 while remaining one of the best defensive backstops in the American League. He was one of two regulars for the A’s that finished with an OPS+ above the average 100; the other being Seth Brown, who showed defensive versatility while also homering 25 times and stealing 11 bases. On the pitching side, Frankie Montas was excellent over his 19 starts with the Athletics before he was dealt to the Yankees at the deadline with a 3.18 ERA and 109/28 K/BB mark. The bullpen -- a serious concern coming into the season -- was actually a strength of the team, as well. Dany Jiménez saved 11 games and struck out 34 hitters in 34 1/3 innings before being shut down with a shoulder strain late in August. Domingo Acevedo and A.J. Puk both looked the part as full-time relievers as well, with Zach Jackson and Sam Moll also more than held their own, as well.

What Went Wrong

After trading Matt Chapman and Matt Olson before the season and doing nothing to replace those stars, our expectations were low but, well, you know. The only offense that can make an argument to being worse in baseball is the Tigers. Oakland scored the 29th most runs -- just ahead of Detroit -- while hitting a league worst .216, registered a league worst .281 on-base percentage and tied the Tigers with the worst slugging percentage at .346. Cristian Pache was a borderline disaster at the plate in his first year as a member of the A’s with a .459 OPS and brutal 70/15 K/BB ratio. Ramón Laureano was able to provide 13 homers and 11 steals in his 94 games after missing time with a PED suspension, but those came with an ugly .216 average and .663 OPS, and he missed the end of the season with a right hip injury. Elvis Andrus had a bit of a resurgence at the end of the year, but it came after he was released by Oakland as seen in his .237/.301/.373 slash with the club. Nick Allen wasn’t any better with the bat with an OPS+ of 60 after taking over as the regular shortstop. And while the offense was the reason this team was a disaster, the starting pitching was far from playoff quality. Montas was the only starter who had an ERA+ above 100 (118), with Cole Irvin the only member of the rotation that had an ERA below 4.00 (3.98, ERA+ of 98). Adam Oller and Adrian Martinez were two of the worst starters in the game with ERAs above 6, with Fielding Independent Pitching scores not far behind; showing it wasn’t bad luck for the most part. Simply put, this was one of the worst rosters in baseball, and there’s good reason why this team finished with the worst record in the American League.

Fantasy Slants

**One of the reasons why Murphy is likely going to be playing for a new team in 2022 -- other than the fact that Oakland appears to be years away from competitiveness -- is that Oakland does have one of the more impressive young talents behind the plate in Shea Langeliers. After hitting 19 homers for Triple-A Las Vegas, Langeliers registered just a .691 OPS in his 40 games with the A’s, but he did hit six homers while showing off his quality defense behind the plate. His approach at the plate is going to have to improve considerably as seen in his ugly 53/9 K/BB ratio over 153 plate appearances, but the talent is here for Langeliers to be a starting fantasy backstop someday.

**The overall numbers for James Kaprielian were not particularly impressive; a 4.23 ERA, a 1.343 WHIP and 98/59 K/BB ratio in 134 innings over 26 starts isn’t what anyone is signing up for. It’s also a regression from his numbers in 2021, particularly in the strikeout category after he fanned 123 in 119 1/3 innings. It wasn’t a case of down velocity, however -- on the contrary, actually -- and he was well above-average in limiting hard contact. A former first-round pick, Kaprielian has shown flashes of being a mid-rotation starter or more. It’s possibly a breakout season is coming in 2023, but it’d be a mistake to bet on it in mixed league drafts.

**One of the arms acquired by the Athletics in the deal that sent Montas to the Bronx was JP Sears, and the southpaw also had some flashes for both New York in Oakland. The 26-year-old had five starts for the A’s where he gave up no more than two runs -- including two where he didn’t allow a single run to score -- but he also five or more in three of those outings. Simply put, Sears is a pitcher who has to have his best command in order to have success at the highest level. If he does, the results can be fruitful. If not, he can be roughed up. The results -- even in a small sample -- showed evidence of both. It’s not hard to see him being a sneaky-good streamer in 2023 and beyond, however.

**With all due respect to Sears, the “get” for the Athletics in that deal was Ken Waldichuk, although he struggled a bit more than Sears did in his time with the A’s after the trade. The southpaw posted a 4.91 ERA in his seven starts with Oakland with a decent -- but far from spectacular -- 33/10 K/BB ratio 34 2/3 innings. Things ended very well over his last two starts, however, as he allowed just one run over 12 innings including seven shutout innings against the Angels. Waldichuk has three above-average pitches including a fastball that can get up to 97 mph with movement. While Sears offers a higher floor because of his command, Waldichuk has the fantasy upside because of his swing-and-miss arsenal.

**Most of the top prospects in the Oakland system are in the lower levels, but there is one exception -- and a pretty darn good one -- in Zack Gelof. Gelof was limited to 96 games because of injuries, but the 22-year-old hit 18 homers in those games while reaching Triple-A at the end of the season. The 60th pick of the 2021 draft, Gelof has well above-average power in his right-handed bat, and he’s also a plus runner who could be the rare third baseman who provides fantasy managers with double-digit stolen bases. There’s no lock Gelof is an early contributor to Oakland next year, but there’s nothing blocking him, and he could be an under-the-radar contributor for 2023.

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Key Free Agents: Chad Pinder

Team Needs: There aren’t many teams who have more needs than the Athletics. They could use help in the outfield, the infield and the rotation. They could probably use a new ownership group, too.