When the biopic of your life comes out, who’s playing the role of you?
Or maybe if you’re a disrespected sort: Rodney Dangerfield?
How would you feel if it were, say, Brad freaking Pitt?
Pretty good, right? I mean one thing we never talk about is the hot GM.
And I don’t just mean Brad-Pitt hot but also hello-Mister-Pit-Boss hot. Throwing-sevens-all-night hot.
Some of the heat waves can be observed in the pace, preponderance and timing of their transactions. Some is plain as day in the results on the field. Some is apparent only through the stillness—through the inverse of that visible heat: a stagnant team scared to rock the boat for fear it’s mere moments from tipping.
Perhaps I’ve mentioned that I’m a Cubs fan. That stagnation describes the Cubs moves since the ill-fated Eloy trade. Describes the Rockies, too—just letting assets pile into a traffic jam with hopes to maybe sort them later.
Tampa is perhaps the best example of pace and preponderance of transactions signaling confidence. The Dodgers’ refusal to engage with Pittsburgh on their lofty terms last summer demonstrated a similar if different confidence. Oakland’s style is closer to that patient Dodger model than the high-wire act Tampa has to perform, but it’s definitely a style all its own. Twenty years after Moneyball, Billy Beane’s teams still find value when nobody’s bothering to really look.
Player | Age on 5/1/2020 | Highest Level Played | ETA
1. LHP Jesus Luzardo | 22 | MLB | 2019
2. LHP A.J. Puk | 25 | MLB | 2019
From head to toe.
I’m Luzardo, baby.
So why don’t you draft me?
(Yeah I know that’s not how the song goes).
Jesus Luzardo carries as much hype into 2020 as Chris Paddack had in 2019. Maybe more. Maybe even as much as Luzardo himself had coming into 2019. I think he’ll be better than Paddack was last year, which is really saying something. He’ll go deeper in games and pick up more wins thanks to the Athletics superior defense, bullpen, and offense. They’re really good, and the excess four territory in their home park will really help. Would have especially helped Paddack, funnily enough, as he’s a flyball pitcher who generates a lot of foul balls.
The starting rotation will look very different this year in Oakland, as Luzardo will be joined by 6’6” platoon maker A.J. Puk. I can’t imagine being a lefty bat against this guy in high school. As Larry Walker is my witness, I would learn to hit right handed. Or call in sick that day.
3. C Sean Murphy | 25 | MLB | 2019
As much as any player’s this season, Sean Murphy’s value depends on your league’s settings. Catchers run from 10-12 deep to 30-40 started in standard leagues, so how does one evaluate the position for lists like these? I know we could say the same for most spots in the sense that league context is key, but it’s not the same, (and you know it so don’t give me that : ). Regardless of the setting, Murphy has value as a potential top ten catcher—it’s just a question of how much that matters in your league.
4. SS Jorge Mateo | 24 | AAA | Late 2020
5. SS Robert Puason | 17 | NA | 2024
The tier breakdown is not real difficult here, which is one thing I’m liking about the tiering. It’s what I’ve been doing in my own stuff for more than a decade, but it seems to fit especially well with some teams, like this one. Not that Jorge Mateo and Robert Puason are similar players. They’re on opposite ends of the spectrum, really, in terms of timeline and type of bet. In Mateo’s case, we might know too much (prospect fatigue) to keep his upside in view, and in Puason’s case, we know too little to make a long-term assessment with confidence. Who you’d pick comes down the type of game you want to play, or where you’re at in the build. I definitely like Puason’s swing batter than Mateo’s. And not at age. Now. But I haven’t seen Puason play, so it’s just a batting practice swing, so big whoop. I would take Mateo in most builds because he has a line on a job at second base, and maybe even in the outfield, and the possibility of Swiss army knife with 80 grade speed learning to play in a developmental system as strong as Oakland’s gets my blood percolating. Which also means I really like both players. I have the same reservations as you about Mateo, but compared to the possibilities and especially the fast-approaching nature of his impact window, I don’t really care that it might not work out. It might not work out for any of us. Fire tornadoes ffs. Stay safe out there. Send love down under. That’s what she said. It was good advice.
6. RHP Daulton Jefferies | | 24 | AA | Mid 2020
7. SS Nick Allen | 21 | A+ | 2022
8. 2B Sheldon Neuse | 25 | MLB | 2019
9. RHP Grant Holmes | 24 | AAA | Mid 2020
10. RHP James Kaprielian | 26 | AAA | Mid 2020
Due to a track record of health issues, the smart money is on Daulton Jefferies settling in as a reliever or swingman type, but I’m not that smart, and I don’t have any money. This isn’t exactly a Bieber starters kit, but Jefferies does have the kind off-speed command that sometimes leads to a career of exceeding expectations.
Defense is the carrying tool for slick fielding Nick Allen, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially in an organization with a strong track record of teaching talented humans to build skills across time.
A similar story exists for Sheldon Neuse, who would seem to be lacking the necessary tools to handle second base on a long-term basis, and who flat out forgot how to hit for a long stretch of his career, but who nonetheless holds promise as a playing time possibility in 2020.
Grant Holmes has lived a few different lives as a prospect. From fireballing Dodger first rounder out of high school to pitch-mix survivor grinding out his years in Triple A to junkie detective on the BBC, has Holmes picked up enough tricks to crack the case of the juicy baseballs? Tune in this season on Fantasy Baseball to find out! (Spoiler alert: I think he’ll have some streamable days late summer).
James Kaprielian has lived even more baseball lives than Holmes. I considered OF Marcus Smith here because I like him a lot in the long term, but we’ve reached the now-or-never hour for JK. It might not always look pretty as he continues to work his way back, but Oakland has to see what it’s got in him at the highest level this year.