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The upside of Oakland's young arms
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Oakland Athletics know how to scout young pitchers, one of the reasons they won the AL West last season.

They have frequently hit on draft picks and trades to lock down major league capable arms, and fantasy owners have benefited from picking them up off the free agent wire.

A's GM Billy Beane cashed in Dan Haren for Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill for Jarrod Parker and Gio Gonzalez for Tommy Milone while drafting and developing Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin.

All five players helped fantasy owners at some point in 2012 -- Parker went 13-8 with a 3.47 ERA, Milone was 13-10 with a 3.74, Anderson was 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA in six starts, Straily went 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA and Griffin was 7-1 with a 3.06 -- and none of the five likely was drafted in your league.

But things will be different in 2013 -- four of the five Oakland rotation spots are set and the aforementioned pitchers all are known commodities who will be on fantasy draft boards.

It's up to fantasy owners to determine who among Oakland's young arms will be most valuable in 2013.

Let's rank them based on upside for this season alone.

1. Parker - The 24-year-old Parker has the pedigree -- he was the ninth overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft -- and the minor league success -- he went 29-19 with a 3.41 ERA in 366 1/3 minor league innings -- to show that last season's success wasn't a fluke. Parker started strong with a 5-3 record and 2.46 ERA through his first 13 starts before slumping with a 2-4 record and 6.15 ERA over his next seven. But a strong finish -- 6-1, 3.00 ERA in his last nine starts and a 4.26 ERA and 11/2 K/BB in 12 2/3 postseason innings -- should give fantasy owners confidence that Parker can make adjustments at the major league level.

2. Anderson - This burly lefty has a 3.57 ERA in 406 career innings, but he hasn't thrown more than 112 1/3 innings in a season since 2009. After rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, he started off 4-0 with a 0.69 ERA before giving up eight runs in his final nine innings and missing his last two or three starts with a strained oblique. He shut out Detroit on two hits over six innings in the playoffs and still has a ton of upside as a potential ace but it's doubtful he can get in 180 innings without getting injured.

3. Straily - Only six pitchers in professional baseball had more strikeouts in 2012 than Straily's 222. However, he struggled in his brief stint with the big club last season despite what the 3.89 ERA suggests. Straily didn't display his trademark fastball command after joining the A's and he walked 16 while giving up 11 homers in 39 1/3 innings. Still, it's hard to ignore his strikeout potential if he wins the fifth spot in Oakland's rotation.

4. Griffin - Griffin had some luck with a .264 BABIP and 81.3 percent left-on- base percentage in his 82 1/3 innings last season. If he had enough innings, his LOB% would have ranked second in the majors, and it's unlikely that he will sustain that in 2013. The right-hander is still a solid prospect with a strong minor league resume and good command but he projects as more of a fourth or fifth starter.

5. Milone - Milone's 3.93 FIP shows that his 3.74 ERA last season wasn't really farfetched. But the left-hander is a control specialist who gives up a lot of hits and doesn't generate many swinging strikes. Those types of pitchers tend to be more prone to breakdowns at the hands of opposing offenses if things don't go perfectly.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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