John Fisher, worth $2.4 billion
World Series Titles:
1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, 1930, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1989
OF Rickey Henderson
60-102, 5th in AL West
Mark Kotsay, 47; Record: 60-102, 0 World Series Titles
RingCentral Coliseum, Capacity: 63,132
SP Shintaro Fujinami. One of the offseason’s under the radar signings went down in Oakland, where the Athletics brought in Fujinami on a one-year, $3.25 deal. The lack of hype is likely related to command issues, but he’s viewed as a strikeout artist, whether it comes as a starter or in relief. His fastball lights up the radar gun and he offers two pro-level secondaries, a slider and a splitter. He’ll likely be a top three starter on a team desperate for pitching talent.
C Sean Murphy. It comes as no surprise that the team’s best player from a year ago shows up as Oakland’s biggest loss. The Athletics are in full tank mode, so trading Murphy to a contending Atlanta Braves team was an easy concession. Neophyte Shea Langeliers will take his place, but the value Murphy provided is likely a few shoe sizes too big to fill. Of the 29 catchers with 300+ plate appearances a year ago, Murphy had the third-most Wins Above Replacement, with 5.1. Both offensively and defensively, Murphy provided a young team with stability and an example of what quality professional play looks like.
SP Daulton Jefferies. Once one of Oakland’s top prospects, on-field struggles and time spent on the shelf have rendered him a shell of his former self. He likely would have contributed to this Athletics squad post-thoracic outlet syndrome, but Tommy John has sidelined him for 2023. It is simply impossible to feel confident in a rebound. Missing his depth will only tax the Oakland bullpen further.
SP Ken Waldichuk. Waldichuk represents one of the most important prospects in the Athletic’s organization, and one of their few chances at a top-end arm. I don’t buy the small sample in which he struggled at the Major League level last season, and expect an ERA about a half to full run better than his 4.93 ERA. Both his slider and changeup project as plus pitches, but a fastball helps him get ahead of guys early and a decent curve adds depth to his arsenal. Expect him to hit the triple digit milestone in innings as he gets acclimated to the big leagues.
Yes, this team is as bad as they look. They may be devoid of high-level talent, but their fate will largely rest upon the shoulders of the few talented veterans hiding on this roster. I'm intrigued at how Trevor May will fare as the closer, and whether he’ll be employed in new-age or stereotypical ways. Elsewhere, exceeding projections will require jumps from their youngest contributors.
One that should catch the eye is Esteury Ruiz. The center fielder will be in line to steal as many bags as humanly possible this year. He didn’t get on base much in his 36 MLB plate appearances last season, but his 70-grade speed can make life a little easier for the batters coming up after him. He should serve as the “second lead off” hitter in the nine hole. There, he’ll have veterans like Tony Kemp and Ramón Laureano to knock him in. With a lineup as deep as the puddles surrounding the stadium, don’t anticipate too many runs on the home portion of the scoreboard.
The rotation at least appears to be more competent. Paul Blackburn was the Athletics’ representative at the All-Star game last season, and may end up with a similar fate in 2023. Fujinami and James Kaprielian project as mid-rotation starters. If they’re lucky, Kyle Muller and JP Sears will contribute quality innings when their name is eventually called.
63-99, 5th in AL West
BetBasics Best Bet:
As bad as Oakland is, the best bet may surprise you. It’s taking the over on the 59.5-win line FanDuel has set for them. At even money, compared to -122 on the under, there’s more value here than the typical over/under futures selection.
Both FanGraphs and PECOTA have the Athletics surpassing that win total, at 70 and 65 wins, respectively. Even selling at the deadline shouldn’t present too big of an obstacle–they likely won’t be good enough to trade away enough wins to sink their ship.
I like their odds at being good enough to surpass that total, potentially taking them out of the lead for the worst record in baseball.