2017 Fantasy Recap: The Oakland Athletics
The Athletics posted their third straight last-place finish in the American League West in 2017, but for the first time since November of 2014, the franchise has a clear direction.
Not only did the A’s commit to a full rebuild in the middle of the season, but a couple of their prospective long-term core pieces first baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Matt Chapman burst on the scene to provide immediate hope and contribute to a roster that closed the season on a 17-7 run. Their young pitching staff didn’t make progress, but better defensive help could help them turn the corner.
Led by executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst, the A’s will continue with a mostly youth-oriented approach in 2018, which means a fairly quiet winter could be in the offing.
The A’s might not be quite ready to contend for a playoff spot in 2018 with their growing nucleus of impressive young players, but they might be ready to try. That’s more than anyone dared say after 2015, when the team finished 27-44 in the second half and 10-20 from Sept. 1 on, or last year, when they went 31-42 in the second half and 22-35 over the final two months.
The strong finishes of veterans Khris Davis, Jed Lowrie and Matt Joyce and the improved pitching and defense helped the A’s turn an important corner. What really excites the A’s is that as stellar as Olson and Chapman once they were called up, there are more players on the way. Dustin Fowler, the injured outfielder the A’s acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray trade, is progressing with his knee rehab on schedule and the A’s are expecting that he will at least compete for the center field spot in the spring. Another player acquired in the Gray trade, middle infielder Ruben Mateo, was sensational for Double-A Midland and is on the fast track.
Davis wrapped up a prolific 2017 campaign with a four-game hitting streak and slashed .326/.396/.630 with a .424 wOBA over the 53 plate appearances he logged across his final 13 games. Davis also achieved high-water marks in doubles (28), RBI (110) and walks (73), with the improved patience at the plate leading to his best OBP (.336) outside of his initial 56-game run with the Brewers in 2013.
Lowrie enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career with a .277/.360/.448 slash line and 14 homers. He was considered a prime trade candidate leading up to the July 31 deadline, and he could very well emerge as trade fodder as well next summer.
Slugging infielder Ryon Healy had seen a 32-point drop in batting average (.305 to .273) as compared to last season in just over double the sample size, but he’s also nearly doubled up his homer total (13 to 25) and has compiled 53 extra-base hits overall. He’s another piece that the Athletics will be looking to build on next year, as he provides key depth in the infield, or in the batting order.