The little team that I always forget about until the regular season is over and ask myself “wait — the Athletics made the playoffs?!” This team is filled with exciting fantasy hitters at their top of the lineup who will provide solid fantasy production to your team. Marcus Semien and Ramon Laureano both should go 20/20 with great run totals (80-90) and decent RBI totals (65-75.) Then they’ve got the three burly sluggers in Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Khris Davis who could all flirt with 40 HRs and 100 RBI. They’ve also got three starting pitchers with sexy names who could break out in a big way this year in Sean Manaea, Jesus Luzardo and Frankie Montas — but everyone is drafting them as such. And at the end of the game they have Liam Hendriks, he of a career 4.72 career ERA before 2019, who came out of nowhere to close out 25 saves with a 1.80 ERA and 13.1 K/9. These guys have postseason written all over them in my eyes. But you guys already know about all of them! Below you’ll find a few sleepers I think could have solid fantasy value in 2020 based on their ADP.
Mark Canha (ADP: 216): Is that what Canha looks like? In my mind, he was always just a generic whitebread create-a-player default. Actually I guess I wasn’t too far off. The Athletics always have guys like this — random create-a-players who out of nowhere put up productive fantasy seasons. Last year in 410 ABs Canha put up a line of 80/26/58/3/.273. One of the biggest contributors to his mini-breakout in 2019 was getting his walk rate (13.5%) above 10% like he’s had in every stop in the minors. He did this by bringing his swing percentage down from 31.1% to 25%. It makes me wonder if Canha would be better served hitting higher in the lineup as opposed to Semien who could thrive in an RBI producing role. With RISP last year Semien hit .327 while Canha only hit .221. If we’re in a post-juiced ball era I think we see Canha’s HR total settle into the 18-22 range, but if he’s batting 5th I still think his RBI totals will come up a bit. And hopefully, with a healthy and rejuvenated Khris Davis hitting behind him he’ll still be able to score around 80 runs. So another 80/20/70/2/.265 season in round 18 or so is not bad for your 4th OF.
Sean Murphy (ADP:265): When every expert is calling someone a sleeper — are they still considered a sleeper? Murphy was on the shortlist of every expert’s catcher sleepers along with Wilson Ramos and Carson Kelly. Murphy made his big league meh-but (debut) in 2019 finishing the year with 4 HRs in 53 ABs with a .245 AVG. He limped to the final game of the season with only 1 hit in his final 23 ABs. However, in AAA in 2019 he hit .308 with 10 HRs in 120 ABs — albeit in the hitter-friendly PCL league. One thing to keep an eye on with Murphy is his health — in 2018 he had surgery on his wrist which ended his season in July. And in 2019 he tore his left meniscus in May and missed two months of the minor league season. This past October he underwent surgery on his left meniscus again but was able to play in 4 spring training games this year before everything went to Hell. The Athletics #3 ranked prospect could hit for a high average with moderate power in his first big league season, luckily his ADP is low enough where a major injury shouldn’t hurt you too much.
Franklin Barreto (ADP: 535): Technically Barreto is locked into a position battle with Tony Kemp — but man he shouldn’t be. Barreto is a 24-year-old former top-50 prospect while Kemp is a 28-year old journeyman back-up utility guy who is still in the league solely on the value his last name might still carry. “Is that Matt’s little brother?” they still shout from the grass bleachers of the Cactus League. That’s not to say Barreto completely deserves this role based on his big league numbers so far: 201 ABs, 26 runs, 9 HRs, 27 RBI, 3 SB, .189 AVG over 3 seasons. And I’ll stop there — .189 average. Maybe Matt’s little brother doesn’t look that bad! Barreto strikes out way too much (every projection system has him with a 30+ K/rate for 2020,) but that doesn’t mean he can’t work on his plate discipline. In fact, this spring training he’s struck out only 8 times in 39 plate appearances (20.5% K/rate.) Yes, it’s only spring training of course, but it’s something! If Barreto can continue to make strides on his plate discipline there is a sneaky undrafted power/speed threat here. Last season in 373 AAA ABs he had 19 HRs with 15 SBs and a .295 average with a 26.6% K/rate. Again — it was the PCL, but I still think if he cuts back on the K’s a little bit there is a useful middle infielder here.
Chris Bassitt (ADP: 347): Bassitt is really the only one of the Athletics starting pitchers who could even remotely be considered a sleeper. Manaea, Montas and Luzardo are all being drafted too early to be considered sleepers and Fiers is a dumpster fire AND A FILTHY, DIRTY, ROTTEN SNITCH! Just kidding — I’m a Yankees fan. He’s a saint in my eyes. So Chris Bassitt — let me tell you more about this young upstart prospect. NOPE! 31 years old. Bounced around all levels of the White Sox and Athletics minor league system since being drafted in 2011 and made his big league debut way back in 2014, but was unable to hold onto a steady job until last year with the Athletics. He actually performed reasonably well: 144 IP, 3.81 ERA, 1.194 WHIP 8.8 K/9. The 4.40 FIP tells a little bit of a different story, but still not too terrible of a first full season. He throws 5 pitches — his #1 pitch being a sinker which he threw 41.5% of the time last year which hitters only hit .235 off of him. His third pitch — a cutter — wasn’t fooling anyone in 2019. Batters hit .344 off of it and despite only throwing it 13.6% of the time it was the pitch that he gave up the most HRs with. Hopefully, someone is talking to Billy Beane about these numbers to tell Bassitt to abandon that cutter in place of his knee-buckling, slow, looping, drop curveball. Hitters only hit .170 off of that curve in 2019.
Joakim Soria (ADP: 708): The 35-year-old reliever with his 9th team is still hanging around. Soria could be the league’s next LaTroy Hawkins. Last season Soria served as the A’s main set-up man and did about as good as he always does. His 4.30 ERA is the worst of his career, however, if you look closer and remove the three 4 earned run games he had (in which he only pitched ? of an inning total) his ERA would’ve been only 2.77. So if Hendriks struggles (I don’t think he will) or gets injured I think Soria is the handcuff to look at over Petit. Why? Coaches love experience. Don’t forget that over a decade ago Soria had a pair of 40 save seasons with the Royals and as recently as 2018 was closing out games with the White Sox.