Norris could be another Bay Area option at catcher
The 2013 Oakland A's have some players that are likely to draw attention from fantasy baseball team owners. Position players like Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick, along with pitchers like Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker and Grant Balfour, could all be top 100 players.
But there are some players that while not exactly foreign to baseball fans, might not be as regarded for their fantasy prospects. In other words, they have plenty of sleeper potential for drafts taking place this weekend.
I personally have pinpointed three players who I think will be absolute steals if taken in the right spots come draft day. Each brings a unique ability or attribute that makes them someone worth owning in middle to later rounds. Starting from No. 3, here are the best fantasy sleepers on the Oakland A's roster.
The hard throwing lefty will get plenty of opportunities in 2013.
In deeper leagues, there is a greater need for setup/relief men. One of the bigger mistakes made by owners is to load up on closers and then watch as they lose a weekly matchup when none of them get work.
That is where high quality setup men gain value. For the A's, Ryan Cook is a no-brainer. The A's lone All-Star in 2012, Cook will be the eighth-inning bridge man to get the ball to Grant Balfour in the ninth. Both of those guys will be on the radar of many fantasy players.
The guy that I think can really jump up and provide sneaky value is Sean Doolittle. The converted outfielder/first baseman struck out 60 hitters in just 47.1 innings for Oakland in 2012. That type of production, combined with the fact that he allowed just 40 total hits and can close in a pinch, make him a great late-round draft option in AL-only or deeper stat leagues that account for holds and/or WHIP.
Lowrie's value will be in his versatility.
Jed Lowrie's fantasy value is twofold for the 2013 season. First and foremost, he is a good player. His solid spring has been a testament to what GM Billy Beane hoped to acquire when sending Chris Carter to Houston for Lowrie.
But beyond the super utility skills Lowrie has brought to the East Bay, the best part is that Lowrie will frequently be in the lineup in some capacity for the bulk of the season. The key will be whether he remains healthy.
The only downside to a middle-round flyer on Lowrie is that his position will be limited to shortstop as he only played that position in Houston in 2012. But because Lowrie could conceivably play three positions, he can be inserted in your fantasy lineup at shortstop even if he isn't playing there that day. On Monday, Wednesday or Thursday games when there are limited teams playing, he could really be a high-end roster filler.
Power-hitting catchers are always in demand.
The best part about the No. 1 player on this list is that he is not even considered the best fantasy option at his position on his own team. Derek Norris is frequently behind John Jaso on most expert fantasy lists for catchers. Don't let that fool you though. If patient, Norris can be had for next to nothing and I think he is poised for a breakout fantasy year.
There are not a ton of catchers that can hit for 25 home runs in a full year. As a matter of fact, I can rattle them off to you here:
That's seven guys. A.J. Pierzynski had an outlier season with Chicago in 2012, McCann is injured until mid-April at least and Russell Martin goes from a relative band box in New York to Pittsburgh's more spacious PNC Park.
The point is, Norris is a young catcher with valid power potential. He has demonstrated that in the spring and seems to be thrusting himself into a genuine starting spot behind the plate. Even with a long, looping swing against his first taste of major league hitting, Norris still hit seven home runs.
The adjusted swing has done wonders for him this spring, so power numbers should see a spike as a result. But the sneaky element of his offensive game is that Norris is one of the rare catchers that can steal a base or two, as his five demonstrated in 2012.
Basically, Norris is worth next to nothing and will have a very high payoff if he plays relatively close to his ceiling. Posey is still the gold standard for catchers in fantasy and there is a drop off after him, but having a backup that can potentially usurp the position for next to nothing is highly desirable. Norris is primed to be that guy in 2013.
Brandon Moss will have a chance to improve upon his gaudy 2012 numbers.
So there you have it. Players A's and educated baseball fans might be aware of, but still not exactly high on the radar for fantasy purposes. Unlike last year, when expectations were low for the entire A's roster, there are a few guys who will stand out in 2013.
Although I have listed Doolittle, Lowrie and Norris, don't be surprised if Brandon Moss breaks out even bigger with a full season. Fantasy speaking, the ability to hit for a decent average (.275 or higher) and legitimate home run power is not that common for middle-to-low-round picks. Moss is not going to be high on anyone's radar with players like Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez at the position.
That is precisely why he can be a high value selection if taken right. The same can be said for a player like Chris Young, who will likely get more than his share of at-bats, given the injury histories of Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes.
Players to stay away from right now are Josh Donaldson and Hiroyuki Nakajima. I think both might improve as the season goes along, but they are likely easier to pick up on waivers than to use a roster spot on.
There you have it. Enjoy your leagues but remember like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell once sang, "ain't nothing like the real thing."