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My 2 Cents On Fantasy Bullpen's "Q & A's" -- Did They Overpay?

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If you want to see my answers to questions posed by Fantasy Bullpen about the 2010 A's, check it out. We discuss, among other things, what the 2010 versions of Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill will bring, and how the outfield will shape up following the additions of Michael Taylor and Coco Crisp. Enjoy the trip; then come back and tell me what I should have said...

UPDATE, 10:52am PST -- If you want to read the interview, but want to avoid more pop-ups than a lineup of Bobby Crosbys, it is now pasted below...

FBP: First off, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. Easy question to start off. How do you see the Athletics finishing in 2010? Record?

Nico: As much as it pains me to say it, and as good as I think/hope the A’s will become 2011, I would have to predict a last place finish for Oakland in 2010. As the roster currently stands, Kurt Suzuki looks like he could be the team’s HR leader with around 15, there isn’t a single hitter I would really want batting #3 or #4, and 3B is still a black hole with SS in the uncertain hands of Cliff Pennington.

If and when Michael Taylor, Chris Carter, and Adrian Cardenas arrive, it’s a whole different story. But the 2010 team looks like a scrappy bunch that will alternate winning and losing games 3-2. I see this team, as currently constituted, going 79-83, with a strong second half as the offense improves upon the arrival of some good young hitting talent.

FBP: The main focus of my 2010 Athletics preview is Brett Anderson, who I think will emerge as an ace in 2010. You simply don’t see many 22 year olds who strikeout that many people, keeping the walks in check and inducing groundballs, and his second half performance showed significant across the board growth. What would you project Anderson’s ‘10 line to be, and what do you think he still needs to work on?

Nico: I agree about how good Anderson is. Add to your praise the fact that he is unusually poised and mature — both unflappable and shrewd about how to work big league hitters. Assuming good health, and factoring in that he plays half his game in a very good pitcher’s park, Anderson is fully capable of putting up a line of something like 17-10, 3.30 ERA. Subtract some wins if the offense refuses to score any runs behind him, but the bullpen should be one of the best in baseball.

FBP: One concern I have about Anderson is the workload. In 2008, he threw 105 innings, compared to 175 last year. That jump raises somewhat of a red flag. How do you think he’ll handle it going forward?

Nico: My concern about Anderson is not so much the innings workload, but the fact that his natural physique is not the ideal athlete’s build. Now he’s been working hard, and apparently very successfully, with Bob Alejo (A’s Strength & Conditioning coach), but we’ve already seen Anderson miss a little time due a “stiff back” and a recurring blister. Anderson still, to me, has the potential to become another Justin Duchscherer — an ace when he’s out there, but often shelved due to this or that.

I’m less worried about the IP because Anderson, by nature, economizes his pitches, and not all innings are alike. The A’s kept him around 100 pitches every start and he just got a lot of innings out of 100 pitches because he throws quality strikes.

FBP: Going into last season, most rankings actually had Trevor Cahill, not Anderson, as the A’s top pitching prospect. He struggled quite a bit in 2009, but do you think he can correct that next year? Where did his strikeouts go? Should he start the year in the big league rotation, or maybe move back down to the upper minors, where he has very little experience?

Nico: “Cahill going forward” is the subject of much controversy on AN, because his peripherals were even worse than his basic stats, and some feel he was not only rushed unnecessarily but possibly damaged and/or exposed as not that good.

I’m a bit more optimistic on Cahill, because throughout the course of the season his changeup improved greatly and in August and September he developed a slider that he hung far less than he had hung the curve/knuckle-curve in April-July.

He’s also only 21, having already gotten big league experience and learned some key adjustments with his stuff. I don’t see any reason Cahill can’t be a very good pitcher in the future — but I imagine his breakthrough season will be 2011, not 2010, as he is very much a work-in-progress.

Specifically, he lacks the most element that is most essential for a major league pitcher: fastball command. Whenever Cahill develops the ability to throw his fastball consistently where he wants to, he will take off. That could happen in April, 2010 or never. My guess is it will happen somewhere in between, such as around the 2010 ASB.

FBP: How do you see the A’s outfield situation playing out with Taylor, Davis, Crisp, etc.? Do you think Taylor will see any substantial playing time in 2010?

Nico: Yes, but not in April. Partly because he’s had fairly little time in AAA and partly because it would be foolish to allow a slugger to become a “Super 2″ in arbitration (which tends to reward sluggers), Taylor should not make the team out of Spring Training. But if he tears it up in AAA, I don’t see why he can’t be called up in May or June, for keeps.

Until then, barring a trade I’d expect to see an April OF lineup of primarily Crisp, Davis, and Sweeney, which could be one of the best defensive OFs in baseball — as well as one of the most pathetic ones in the HR column.

FBP: Andrew Bailey was fantastic in 2009, but past him, who do you see at the top of the bullpen depth chart going into next season? When is Joey Devine expected back?

Nico: Partly because Devine is coming back from injury (he’s expected back for Spring Training, though this puts him at the top end of the recovery scale), I think Bailey will be the team’s closer and Devine the set-up man. Behind them you have Michael Wuertz and Brad Ziegler, and from the left side you can choose from Craig Breslow, Jerry Blevins, and Brad Kilby. That’s a pretty deep and generally fantastic bullpen.

FBP: We all know the A’s farm system is stacked, but for dynasty league owners, can you give us maybe one or two under the radar names?

Nico:Anthony Capra doesn’t get a lot of press but looks like he could be a very good pitching prospect. Rashun Dixon is raw but is also very young (18) and full of tools. Grant Desme strikes out a ton but has made recent strides and just tore up the AFL last month.

FBP: What Athletic do you think is most likely to exceed expectations in 2010? Most likely to “bust?”

Nico: Daric Barton is a “breakout candidate” for 2010. He failed when he was very young and immature but while he doesn’t have a lot of power he has a chance to be a “Scott Hatteberg-type” player: Something like a line of .290/.370/.430, with very good defense, is not out of the question for Barton.

On the flip side, I just don’t see Pennington hitting in the big leagues over a full season. I’d guess he’ll have AVG and OBP closer to .230/.300 with very little power — I think a .650 OPS is perfectly possible, in which case his defense will need to be pretty spectacular to make up for his hitting.