Oakland Athletics

Oakland Closer Situation

Nathan P. asks:

Has Oakland settled on a closer yet? I've got both Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler, but I only want to keep one of them. Please tell me they aren't going to share save opportunities.

Devine and Ziegler were originally penciled in to share closing duties.  However, Devine will be examined by Dr. James Andrews Wednesday or Thursday.  His sore elbow will keep him out at least three weeks.

MLB.com's Mychael Urban learned from A's manager Bob Geren that Santiago Casilla and Russ Springer could also see save opportunities.  But for now, Ziegler is the man.  If you own Devine, you might as well wait until the diagnosis before deciding what to do with him.

Ziegler is being drafted in the 18th round currently, so he'd be a nice bargain if other relievers don't chip away at his saves.  I have him down for a 3.58 ERA and 1.33 WHIP with a 5.2 K/9.

Trevor Cahill Examined

Today let's take a look at A's starting pitching prospect Trevor Cahill, who's become a popular late-round sleeper even in non-keeper mixed leagues.

Cahill, a 21 year-old righty, tossed 87.3 innings last year at High A and 37 at Double A.  He was unhittable and prevented home runs well in both stints.  The move to Double A saw his strikeout rate dip below a batter per inning and his walk rate rise to one free pass every other inning.


System ERA WHIP K9 BB9 HR9 H9
PECOTA 4.70 1.53 6.61 5.34 0.63 8.44
ZiPS 4.54 1.55 4.86 4.86 0.81 9.08
CHONE 4.82 1.58 6.64 5.46 1.18 8.79

Survey says: not a good mixed league pick due to poor control.  Cahill will probably still be tough to hit and keep the ball in the park with lots of grounders.  But even his 90th percentile PECOTA calls for 4.44 BB/9.  A reason for optimism: Cahill has walked just 3 in 16 innings this spring (1.69 BB/9).  Also his top comp at BP, Yovani Gallardo, reduced his walk rate upon arriving in the Majors.

Scouting-wise, here's how Cahill ranked on top prospects lists: Baseball America - 11th, Kevin Goldstein - 23rd, Keith Law - 24th. 

Law says Cahill's two-seam fastball is "toxic" with "ridiculous sink."  BA says the pitch has "outstanding heavy sink and late life."  Reviews on his spike curveball range (but all three sources like it), with Goldstein calling it plus-plus.  The consensus is that Cahill profiles as a #1 or #2 and is very close to big league ready.

It's easy for me to just keep recommending these top prospects.  So I'll continue to do so!  Cahill will probably break camp with the team, so what's the harm in drafting him?  If the control is a problem then wait til next year.  If not, you have a Rookie of the Year candidate.  And he could always fluke into a decent WHIP, posting an abnormally low H/9 since no one in the AL has seen him yet.

Greg Smith Fifth In AL ERA Race

I could've never predicted the current AL ERA leaderboard:

  1. Cliff Lee - 0.96
  2. Zack Greinke - 1.47
  3. Ervin Santana - 2.02
  4. Daisuke Matsuzaka - 2.43
  5. Greg Smith - 2.54

Today, let's take a look at 24 year-old Oakland southpaw Greg Smith.

Heading into the season, Baseball America projected Smith as a back-of-the-rotation starter.  He's more about polish and smarts, using command of his four pitches to retire hitters.

Here are his numbers so far:

6 starts
39 IP
6.5 IP/start
2.54 ERA
1.03 WHIP

7.15 K/9
3.00 BB/9
2.38 K/BB
0.92 HR/9
11.5% HR/flyball
6.23 H/9
.228 BABIP
37.5% groundball rate

As a team, the A's have a low .279 BABIP.  Adjusting Smith's BABIP more toward his team's, I get something near a 3.80 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.  So, what we're seeing is not a complete fluke if the strikeout and walk rates are legit.  I expect the K rate to come down a bit, closer to 6.0.  Only thing that scares me about Smith is his 10.5 hits per nine in 52 Triple A innings last year.  If a hit explosion of that nature occurs, his ERA might just be a hair under 5.00 moving forward.

Even adjusting for BABIP Smith has been tough to hit this year.  He will need to continue allowing fewer than a hit per inning if he is to keep his ERA under 4.00.  36 starters did that last year, including lefties with less than amazing repertoires like Wandy Rodriguez, Barry Zito, Ted Lilly, and Rich Hill.  I can't definitively say Smith will fall into this group but he's a fine pickup in the short term.  Note that Zito, Lilly, and Hill have all struggled in '08 with prolonged league exposure.  The same fate is likely for Smith since he is not a dominating type of pitcher.

A Look At Dana Eveland

Oakland lefty Dana Eveland has allowed one run in 13.1 innings, along with 13 Ks.  It's about time we took a look.

Eveland, 24, came to the A's in the Dan Haren deal.  Before that he went from Milwaukee to Arizona in the Doug Davis trade.  He was awful in 64.1 career big league innings coming into this season; poor control and a flukey high hit rate did him in.  He did have a K/9 over 8.1 though.  Decent groundball rate in this limited appearances, though he hasn't shown that in his two starts this year.

Let's check out the projections:

  • Baseball HQ: 5.90 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 7.76 K/9
  • CHONE: 4.45 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.20 K/9
  • ZiPS: 4.50 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 6.41 K/9
  • PECOTA: 4.75 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 5.86 K/9

So even the most optimistic projections show an AL-only type pitcher at best.  The consensus is that he doesn't have the control yet.  With just two starts, we can't tell if he's found it.  For what it's worth, he posted a very strong 2.14 BB/9 in 21 spring innings.  With a control breakout it seems that Eveland falls short of a mixed league-worthy pitcher.

Scouting-wise, Baseball America profiled him in their '06 handbook.  They drew a David Wells comparison, noting a possible weight issue.  They had praise for his fastball command and his breaking stuff.  Back then he worked in the 88-90 mph range with the heater, not uncommon for a lefty.

Keep in mind that most hitters have never seen Eveland, and he's not any kind of dominant young stud.  You could add him in a mixed league, but it's risky because you won't be able to predict when hitters will start to catch up.  I'll start to consider Eveland "for real" if he has a BB/9 under 3.0 after ten starts.  Unfortunately by then he will probably be off the waiver wire.   

Pick Up Dan Johnson

I see Dan Johnson is one of the most popular drops this week. All it takes is an 0 for 12, apparently.  He's still getting the vast majority of starts at first base, including most against southpaws. 

This is a player who can hit .300 with 25+ HR in 500+ ABs.  In other words, he's a lot like Chris Shelton.  Ken Macha is not going to give up on him after four starts, and neither should you.  I recommend pulling a Buy Low here.  Johnson can be a $15 mixed league player; he doesn't belong on the waiver wire.   

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