The Oakland rotation has long been a source of sleepers in fantasy baseball. It used to be the oft-injured Rich Harden and then it was the oft-injured Brett Anderson, but everyone appears to be healthy at this point. They don’t seem to have a pitcher to pass the “oft-injured” tag to. It would appear to go to Scott Kazmir, but he wasn’t oft-injured. He was oft-pounded and oft-bad before his recent revival. “Shoulder fatigue” is MLB-speak for “this guy can’t pitch and we need him off the roster.” The “oft-injured” tag will have to be tucked away for another season until some of these newer Oakland starters develop an injury history. Until then, we’ve got some really intriguing sleepers rounding out this Oakland rotation.
Jarrod Parker and Scott Kazmir will likely occupy the first two slots in the Oakland rotation. Sonny Gray appears to be the odds on favorite for the #3 slot. Let’s do a little comparison, shall we?
Pitcher A – 64 innings, 5-3 record, 9.42 K/9, 2.81 BB/9, 2.67 actual ERA, 2.92 xFIP
Pitcher B – 64 2/3 innings, 4-1 record, 9.05 K/9, 2.64 BB/9, 2.78 actual, 3.36 xFIP
Pitcher A is Sonny Gray and pitcher B is Michael Wacha. Wacha is a mortal lock to go ahead of Gray in the majority of drafts based on familiarity, name recognition and his October success. Gray gets to pitch half his games in the comfy confines of O.co Coliseum AND he has the Astros in his division. Gray also as a much higher GB % (52.9% vs Wacha’s 44.3%). Sonny Gray is a name that fantasy GMs need to be aware of around the 13th-16th round in their draft.
A.J. Griffin isn’t all that exciting from a fantasy perspective. He’s a guy who will probably throw 200ish innings with competent ratios and passable strikeout totals. He posted a 3.83 actual ERA with a 4.18 xFIP. He also posted a 7.70 K/9 with a 2.43 BB/9.
He has two red flags that should concern fantasy GMs. First, he missed the playoffs with elbow tendonitis. Perhaps Griffin will claim the mantle of “Oft-injured Oakland Starter.” Second, he gives up a lot of fly balls and a lot of homers. He gave up fly balls on 49.5% of the balls he put in play and 36 of those found the cheap seats. 36 homers. That’s a lot of long balls. The fly balls keep his BABIP down, but they keep his ERA up.
Griffin is a worthy stream candidate at home…if he’s fully healthy. His HR:FB ratio was under 10% at home and over 15% on the road. His K/9 was over 8.00 at home and only 7.24 on the road. His home ERA (3.54) was half a point under his road ERA (4.14).
Griffin is a stream candidate/bench guy in a mixed league. He’s a depth guy, not a guy fantasy GMs can rely on to win a league.
The fifth starter job will likely fall to Dan Straily. This is where fantasy GMs need to be sleeping in 2014. We have about a full season of data on Straily and we’ve learned a lot about Straily. First, he, like Griffin, profiles as a fly ball pitcher. He has a 0.84 GB:FB ratio at the major league level in about a season’s worth of data. The difference is that he hasn’t given up nearly the amount of gopher balls as Griffin has.
We know that he features three solid pitches (four-seam, slider, changeup) and one mediocre pitch (sinker). Straily’s sinker is the gopher ball pitch. It doesn’t miss bats (an anemic 8.76% whiff/swing % in 2013) and it typically gets knocked around (.317 BAA with a .481 SLGA). He either needs to find a way to improve his sinker or ditch it completely.
We also know that he’s shown the ability to rack up lots of K’s in the minors and that those strikeouts haven’t translated to the major league level the way fantasy GMs would have liked.
Straily’s value is a little beaten up after a mediocre 2013 season, but he’s still young enough (only 25) to put it together at the major league level. The underlying skills are there and he could have a mini-breakout in 2013. He’s an end of the draft flyer at this point and a legit sleeper candidate in a rotation known for its sleepers.