Who to Watch: A’s, Mariners

Last season, when Brett Greenfield and I were doing this series, we had a tough time finding even one sleeper from the A’s and Mariners.  Now, with a slew of offseason action, both teams have bolstered their rosters with fantasy value.  With more options to choose from, which players do fantasy owners need on or off their radar come draft day?  

The recent signing of Ben Sheets gives him some late round fantasy value, but I’d gladly take Brett Anderson if I had to choose between the two.  Anderson started 2009 at the ripe age of 21.  As a young, unpolished rookie, Anderson struggled to a 4.64 first-half ERA.  However, as the season went along Anderson, with the help of coaches and trainers, only got stronger.  That progression led to a 3.48 second-half ERA along with an improving strikeout rate and fastball velocity.  All in all, as a rookie, Anderson posted a 3.33 K/BB rate, good for seventeenth best in the league and better than Josh Johnson, Adam Wainwright and Johan Santana.
There isn’t just one A’s player I am staying away from, but rather three positions worth of players.  With the re-signing of Jack Cust and the trades for Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jake Fox to go along with yet another comeback attempt of Eric Chavez (also Dallas McPherson vying for a roster spot), there are a lot of pieces to fill 1B/3B/DH in Oakland.  No matter who starts at each position from day one, there isn’t much upside to be had and at bats could easily become a shared opportunity.  Besides, it might just be Chris Carter that ends up outshining everyone else by mid-season.
From the Mariners, it is Jose Lopez that I want to grab once the top second basemen are off the board.  Lopez saw a jump in his HR/FB rate, which led to a career high 25 home runs and it also marked a four-year progression in that category.  Lopez is young, only 26-years-old, so there is a chance he can improve on his 2009 numbers, specifically AVG, runs and RBI.  Last season a .274 BABIP held his AVG down to .272, so there is certainly room for that to improve to .285 or so.  His free swinging ways will always make his projections a bit volatile, as he depends a lot on BABIP.  Nonetheless, second base gets a little thin after the big names are gone.  At least Lopez has some upside and an improved lineup around him.
The Mariners player that I am staying clear of is Milton Bradley.  Sure, Bradley got some buzz by being added to Jack-Z’s new-look M’s, but let’s face the facts; Bradley has had exactly ONE quality fantasy season in his career.  Even in that season he only played in 141 games.  Bradley is no spring chicken anymore as he’ll be 32-years-old in April.  While he should bounce back a bit, his new home park won’t help his power any and he hasn’t stolen more than five bases since 2006 or stayed healthy for a full season.  Believe that the Mariners are getting better, but don’t believe in Bradley doing much for your fantasy team, unless you happen to be in an OBP league. 

Brett Greenfield of Fantasy Phenoms give his take…
The A’s player you want on your team in 2010 is Ben Sheets. His recent signing puts him in a great ballpark for pitchers. He’ll play half of his games in Oakland and only signed a one-year deal, meaning he’s again in a contract year, showcasing himself. He’s only provided one healthy season over the course of his last five, but the thought of him pitching for Boston, St. Louis or New York for August and September is enticing.

The A’s player you don’t want on your team in 2010 is Kevin Kouzmanoff. Kouz has averaged a line of .265 – 20 – 81 over his last three full seasons. Moving from Petco to McAfee is no difference for a hitter, so he’ll remain held back by his ballpark. Third base is thin, but not thin enough for you to take a chance on this guy as your CI.
The Mariners player you want on your team in 2010 is Franklin Gutierrez. Mired for playing time in the past, Franklin finally received a full-time gig last year in Seattle. An average around .280 with 20/20 potential is what he can provide late in drafts. After all, 18/16 last year isn’t too shabby. Gutierrez will turn 27 as he enters the 2010 season and is a nice way to fill out your fourth OF spot.

The Mariner you don’t want on your 2010 team is Milton Bradley. Milton had his career year in Texas, where he did most of his damage in Arlington. In the spacious Safeco Field, Bradley won’t be able to duplicate those numbers that we associate his name with from 2008. Health is an even bigger concern. Only twice in his career has he topped 400 AB. Only one of those times he went over 500 AB.