Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Oakland Athletics

Potential sleepers and avoidable busts for the Oakland Athletics.

Finding draftable talent from an MLB squad that finished the season with the second-fewest runs scored can take time and effort. But fear not—I’ve dove into the crevices and scoured the roster to find any sleepers and busts of note. Yes, even a team that only won 60 games has a blend of both components.

The first point that needs attention is that only a few of these players will get drafted into your league, and none of them early. In a standard 5×5 12-team league, Oakland Athletics are more likely to go towards the backend of a draft.

However, if you’re in a deeper-format league, there might be a few players to pique your interest. There is an abundance of playing time and several positions open for grabs on the roster.

 

Sleepers

 

Seth Brown

 

2022 stats (110 PA): .230 AVG, 55 R, 25 HR, 73 RBI, 11 SB

After diving through the Athletics roster, Seth Brown looks like my sleeper of choice. First, his dual eligibility at 1B and OF is a nice little bonus, but there’s more. Daily or weekly transaction leagues will benefit from his versatility.

Brown went practically unnoticed in 2021 but put up 20 HRs in only 307 PAs. Then, he follows it up by putting together another solid campaign in 2022. Furthermore, it wasn’t all smoke and mirrors. The graph below depicts Brown’s key improvements after his sneaky 2021 season.

Seth Brown Improvements

Along with a much better than league average barrel% are the areas of improvement (highlighted in yellow). Indeed, some will discount the plate discipline because his O-Swing% jumped to 31.8%. However, from an overall sense of making contact with pitchers, he got better. In the end, he cut his 2021 K-rate (29%) down to 26.3% in 2022.

Lastly, let’s not forget his intentions on the basepaths. Among all qualified 1B, Brown’s 11 stolen bases were only behind Freddie Freeman‘s 13 for tops at the position. While stolen bases might be easier to find in 2023, they aren’t easy to get from your 1B.

In conclusion, we’ve got a dual-eligible player with solid pop in his bat, sneaky speed, and going late drafts. The only question is, how late can you wait to lock him up?

 

Sean Murphy

 

2022 stats (612 PA): .250 AVG, 67 R, 18 HR, 66 RBI, 1 SB

Murphy’s value will change significantly depending on your league. If it’s a two-catcher league, playing time is vital. Although, if you’re in a one-catcher league, waiting for a backstop that can outproduce the draft slot is a sound strategy. The added benefactor for Murphy is he’s viable in both formats.

In fact, among all active catchers, Murphy finished first overall in plate appearances (612 PA). Additionally, he was no slouch at the plate as he crossed home plate 67 times and drove in 66 runs: both were top-four production among catchers. Also, his 18 dingers put him in a three-way tie for seventh.

You may ask, what indicators aided his production? First, his quality of contact is viable, even if he wasn’t a catcher. Murphy’s 9.8% barrel rate is well-above league average (7.4%). But it’s more than power. On top of mashing baseballs, his 76% contact rate is up nearly four ticks from 2020.

In summation: say you space entirely on taking a catcher in the early-mid portions of your draft? Murphy has plenty of skills to volumize production, even in a less-than-efficient offense.

 

Ramón Laureano

 

2022 stats (383 PA): .211 AVG, 49 R, 13 HR, 34 RBI, 11 SB

You’re slightly underwhelmed when you glance at Laureano’s 2022 stat line. Although, there is a major factor for the lack of counting stats. He wasn’t reinstated from a suspension until early May, suffered an oblique in August, and dealt with a hamstring injury shortly after his return in September. He only stepped to the plate 383 times when the season was completed.

All the setbacks aside, Laureano filled the stat sheet while active. Indeed, the batting average was abysmal, but we could point to his .262 BABIP as a place for positive regression, as his career BABIP sits in the .311 arena. Additionally, his 39.3% ICR% (Ideal Contact Rate) was the best he’s posted in the majors and a slight tick above the MLB average (39.3%).  So, there’s a fair chance he’s closer to the .251 batting average we’ve seen throughout his career, rather than the .211 he posted last season.

Add the power/speed skill set to a better batting average (hopefully) and more time on the field; we might have a late OF with 20 HR/20 SB potential and a .250 BA.

 

Ken Waldichuk

 

2022 stats (34.2 IP): 4.93 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 33 K, and 2 W

The surface stats paint a grim picture of Waldichuk. But the youthful pitcher that only enjoyed a 34-inning cup of coffee in the big leagues has a devastating 18% SwStr slider. Furthermore, he only unleashed it 20% of the time and could ramp up the usage a tad. And then there is his changeup, primarily used to neutralize right-handed batters as they clubbed it into the ground at a 58% clip. Lastly, he does one of my favorite things with his curveball: throws it early (76% Early%) in the zone to steal strikes.

There was a lot in a little there, so let me sum it up. Waldichuk shows a plan with his arsenal: fastballs up (58.6% hiLoc%), curveball to steal an early strike, changeup to keep right-handed bats from looking fastball, and a GIF-worthy slider that could get more usage.

Don’t be fooled by the small sample; there’s plenty under the hood to make him an addition to your squad.

 

Busts

 

Shea Langeliers

 

2022 stats (153 PA): .218 AVG, 14 R, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 0 SB

After not making his MLB debut until mid-August, Langeliers became a fixture in the Oakland lineup with 17 starts at catcher and 24 as the team’s DH. This was a tremendous development for the former ninth-overall draft pick by the Atlanta Braves in 2019. Additionally, the prospect community branded him with high marks, and, thanks to solid defense, he looks ready for the big leagues.

Unfortunately, Langeliers might still need some time to develop. Take a look at the graph below. You’ll notice two color blocks: red (his plate discipline) and green (his quality of contact).

Shea Langeliers‘ Plate Discipline Issues

YIKES! The ability to make contact and put the ball in play is dreadful. However, the quality of contact when he did put the ball in play was impressive. The question is, which will give in? Also, let’s not forget Langeliers has to learn how to become an MLB-caliber catcher. He’s going to go through slumps and growing pains. I fear that the two sides (plate discipline and power) meet somewhere in the middle, and it’ll be a bumpy road in 2022.

 

Cole Irvin

 

2022 stats (181 IP): 3.98 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 128 K, and 9 W

On the surface, a sub-4.00 ERA and average WHIP can look tantalizing as you search the backend of your draft for pitching depth. However, there appear to be several red flags that should help you avoid Irvin.

Let’s start with the obvious: his strikeout rate, or rather the lack thereof. With a microscopic 18% K-rate, he ranks 154th among all qualified SPs. Furthermore, Irvin could only rack up 128 Ks over the 24th-most innings hurled in the MLB. When you’re scooping up talent with a practically free draft day price, you must get more strikeout upside.

The next red flag, he gives up WAY too much hard contact. In fact, outside of his four-seam fastball (9.8% barrel rate), Irvin’s sinker (9.7% barrel rate), curveball (7.8% barrel rate), and changeup (8.2% barrel rate) all have above-league average barrel rates. Additionally, his four-seamer—which he features 37% of the time—is nearly league average in barrel rate.

No strikeouts and lots of loud contact against? Regression is coming—watch.

 

Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Dave Swan

Dave Swan is an avid Chicago Cubs fan that enjoys all aspects of fantasy baseball-especially DFS. He would trade his right arm for a GIF library of Greg Maddux pitches. Swan's baseball thoughts are available at @davithius.

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