Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Playing in a well-known pitcher-friendly ballpark with a low-budget lineup, fantasy owners have for the last three years avoided and ignored much of the Oakland A's hitters.
That's going to have to stop.
After averaging just 4.15 runs per game from 2010-12, the Oakland offense has been on fire for the first 26 games of 2013, posting 5.48 runs a contest to rank No. 1 in all of baseball.
That's not a fluke, small-sample size number, either. The A's averaged 5.18 runs per game over the final 76 games of 2012.
If you look over the Oakland lineup, there are at least seven players with good-to-excellent fantasy value. Second baseman Eric Sogard is likely the only player in their starting lineup who fantasy owners can bypass without question.
Let's evaluate the remainder of their lineup:
Catcher John Jaso quietly put together s solid season in Seattle last year, batting .276 with 10 home runs, 50 RBI and an .850 OPS - all career highs. He's never been known as a fantasy-worthy option and even at this improved level he's likely only a backup for fantasy owners.
First baseman Brandon Moss was drafted by the Boston Red Sox back in 2002 and he's drifted from team to team while not producing much until last season, when he blasted 21 home runs with a .954 OPS in 84 games. He's off to a solid start this season (.298, four homers, 19 RBI) and is getting a chance to play on a consistent basis for the first time in his career.
Infielder Jed Lowrie showed some previously never-before-seen power (16 homers) last season as a part-time player with Houston, but he still hit for a low average (.244). This year, as an everyday player, Lowrie is producing at a much higher level, hitting .333 with 18 runs scored, three homers, 18 RBI and a .938 OPS. Starting shortstops with that level of production are few and far between.
Maybe the biggest surprise in the Oakland lineup is third baseman Josh Donaldson. As a part-timer last season, he batted .241 with a .687 OPS in 274 at-bats. This season, as the A's full-time starter at the hot corner, he's batting a stunning .327 with, 14 runs, 20 RBI and a .912 OPS. And the best news is that he's owned in less than half of all Yahoo leagues. If he's available in your league, last week's AL Player of the Week should be on your short list.
The Oakland outfield is filled with talent.
Coco Crisp has been the team's do-everything leadoff hitter, batting .283 with 24 runs, five home runs, 12 RBI, eight stolen bases and a .943 OPS. Beware, he came up gimpy in Monday night's 19-inning marathon and may miss some time.
Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes owns the scariest bat in the A's lineup. He's the big bopper who opposing pitchers fear the most. In his rookie season, he blasted 23 homers in 487 at-bats, and despite spending time on the disabled list he still has four homers, 10 runs scored and 10 RBI in 13 games this season. What's more, the A's win when he's in the lineup. They are a stunning 93-48 when Cespedes' name in on the lineup card.
Right fielder Josh Reddick, he of the mountain man beard, has struggled this season, but showed last year what he is capable of when he hit a career-high 32 home runs and knocked in 85 runs. Anybody with that much power will be worthy of a spot on a fantasy roster even if he is off to an ugly start (.147, one homer, 13 RBI). In fact, if he's not on your roster, this might be the perfect "buy low" time to make his owner an offer.
Designated hitter Seth Smith is proving he wasn't just a product of his time spent at Coors Field. Although he struggled in his first season after the move from Colorado to Oakland, he's making the most of his status as Oakland's regular DH, batting .312 with 12 runs scored, three homers, 13 RBI and a .911 OPS.
If you have been paying attention, that's four batters with an OPS over .900 and that doesn't include the A's two best power hitters - Cespedes and Reddick.
This is an offense on the rise and fantasy owners should be trying to capitalize on their abilities by adding them to their fantasy rosters. Being young and playing on the left coast, when much of the fantasy world is already sleeping, could be an advantage for the smart general manager.
The A's lack of media hype likely means a low cost out in the market place. Go get them.