The surprising Oakland A's offense
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When we think of the traditional Oakland A's offense over the years, it usually sends fantasy owners running in the opposite direction.

The reasons are many. The team plays in a stadium with enough foul ground to put in a couple of par-3s. Many a player's batting average has been harmed by foul outs that would have sailed far into the stands in most parks around the league.

And for those of you fantasy owners who have yet to see the movie "Moneyball," the A's have always been run on a shoestring budget. This year, the team's payroll will likely be in the $79 million range, which would rank them 13th of 15 teams in the American League and 26th of 30 major league organizations.

Even when they find a "diamond-in-the-rough," they usually can't keep him for long because when free agency hits and the "big" clubs arrive with their checkbooks, they can't write numbers with enough zeros.

Last season, however, the joke was on fantasy owners who shied away as the A's offense put up the fourth-most runs per game (4.73). They trailed only Boston, Detroit and St. Louis, which had payrolls much greater then the cash-poor A's.

But despite the continuing low payroll, the A's should put together a solid offense again this season and you should not ignore their hitters.

Below are six guys you should definitely consider:

Leadoff hitter and center fielder Coco Crisp jumped out to a quick start last season and posted a career high with 22 home runs and his best OPS in seven seasons. In the past, he was known more for being sidelined by injury, but he's played at least 120 games for three consecutive season. He's averaged 35 stolen bases over the past four seasons and 20-20 guys are still hard to find.

Third baseman Josh Donaldson was one of the biggest surprises of 2013, graduating from a part-time player to a full-time fantasy stud. He batted .301 with 89 runs, 24 homers and 93 RBI last season. Though there is a possibility he'll move into the No. 2 hole to the detriment of his RBI total, we still like the way he puts the bat on the ball.

There aren't many shortstops batting in the No. 3 slot as Jed Lowrie did last season, and he should again in 2014. After four uneventful years in Boston, Lowrie has gotten more opportunities in Houston and Oakland the past two seasons and is starting to show nice power numbers. He batted .290 with 15 homers, 80 runs scored and 75 RBI last season, and he'll be a solid sleeper choice at No. 201 in Yahoo's latest fantasy rankings.

Yoenis Cespedes has learned to live with opposing pitchers trying to pitch around him and has averaged 24.5 homers over his first two years in the majors. But in 2014, he'll have more protection in the lineup than ever with a healthy Josh Reddick and an improving Brandon Moss. If Cespedes will be a little more selective, he should pound out 30 homers or more.

Reddick, an outfielder, was a huge disappointment to fantasy owners last season, but most of the problem was caused by an injured right wrist, which was taken care of by offseason surgery. He declared himself 100 percent healthy last week, and if true, he could return to his 2012 production level (32 homers, 85 RBI). After last season's 12-homer campaign, he could be in line for a comeback-player-of-the-year-type season and would be a great value at No. 212.

But the best production could end up coming from the bat of Moss, the first baseman. The 30-year-old came into his own last season, blasting 30 homers and knocking in 87 runs. He is expected to bat fifth in the A's lineup between the feared Cespedes and a renewed Reddick, which could help him continue on his upward climb. Expectations are high and a 35-home run season is certainly a possibility. He's being selected at No. 185 in early drafts, making him extremely undervalued.

From our point of view, there are plenty of bargains to be had in the A's lineup. Don't overlook them because of any preconceived notions.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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