Last season, the Oakland Athletics finished below .500 for the first time since 1998. After their third-place finish (76-86), general manager Billy Beane decided it was time to trade his established veterans for as many young prospects as possible.

The Athletics shipped starting pitcher Dan Haren and a pitching prospect to the Arizona Diamondbacks for six players in an attempt to rebuild the team's farm system.

Advertisement

After making it clear that they were in a rebuilding phase by trading their best pitcher, the Athletics then traded outfielder Nick Swisher to the Chicago White Sox for three more prospects. They also sent veteran outfielder Mark Kotsay to the Atlanta Braves for 24-year-old reliever Joey Devine.

Earlier in the offseason, the Athletics dealt Marco Scutaro to the Toronto Blue Jays for two pitching prospects. While they likely won't compete in 2008, the Athletics are now set up to be contenders again within the next few seasons.

Fantasy owners can look at the situation in Oakland in two different ways. A lot of owners in leagues that don't allow keepers will not see much value in Oakland because there won't be too many players contributing heavily to fantasy squads in 2008.

Some owners might view the Athletics as a team with no valuable players, but it's a different story if you're in a keeper league. There are several young prospects in Oakland who could be making significant contributions by 2009. First baseman Daric Barton and outfielder Travis Buck could provide some offensive help as early as this season.

Oakland Athletics

2007 record: 76-86 (3rd in AL West)

Key additions: OF Emil Brown

Key losses: RHP Dan Haren, 1B/OF Nick Swisher, LF Shannon Stewart, DH Mike Piazza, UTIL Marco Scutaro

Most valuable fantasy performers:

1. Huston Street, RHP – It's not a good sign when a team's most valuable fantasy prospect is a closer that only had 16 saves last season. As long as he stays healthy, Street will likely save 25-30 games in 2008. There are other closers that are more valuable than Street, but he'd be a good selection in the middle rounds of your draft.

2. Mark Ellis, 2B – Last season, Ellis hit .276 with 19 home runs and 76 RBIs. He'll likely only have 10-15 home runs and 60-70 RBIs in 2008, so he's not worthy of being one of the top second basemen selected. Still, he's a solid option in deeper leagues and could be drafted in the middle to late rounds.

3. Jack Cust, DH – The former Orioles outfielder was finally given an opportunity to play regularly last season and responded by hitting 26 home runs in 124 games. He'll likely be one of the better hitters for the Athletics in 2008, so it'd be good to grab him in the later rounds if he's available. His career batting average is .247, so he could wind up hurting your fantasy team more than he helps it.

4. Joe Blanton, RHP – With Haren headed to Arizona, Blanton becomes the best pitcher in a rotation that has had plenty of superstars in the last decade. He's won at least 12 games in each of his three full seasons in the major leagues. Blanton should win 13-17 games in 2008, so he could be an attractive option that is available in the later rounds.

Hidden gems:

Advertisement

1. Daric Barton, 1B – In his brief debut in 2007, Barton hit .347 with four home runs and eight RBIs in 18 games. He's missed some time in spring training due to a sore hand, but is projected to be the starting first baseman. Watch Barton's performance during the rest of spring training and the beginning of the season. He probably isn't worth a draft pick, but could be a good addition in the early part of the season.

2. Travis Buck, RF – Buck hit .288 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs in 82 games last season. He's never had much power, but he seems to have a lot of heart. Buck won't be an elite fantasy outfielder in the near future, but he could be a solid backup this year. Watch him closely in the first few weeks of the season. Be sure to grab him first if he seems to be playing well early.

3. Rich Harden, RHP – When Harden won 11 games in 2004, it seemed like he would be the latest Oakland pitcher to become a top fantasy option. However, he's only started 16 games over the last two seasons because of injuries. The Athletics are counting on Harden to be healthy in 2008, so he might be someone worth grabbing in the middle to late rounds of your draft. Don't expect much from him, so you won't be disappointed if he gets hurt again. And then you'll be happy if he's healthy and wins 15-20 games.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement