Athletics’ Playing Time Battles: Hitters by Alex Chamberlain March 1, 2016 We’ve started our annual Depth Chart Discussions, re-branded as Playing Time Battles for 2016. You can catch up on every team we’ve covered in the Playing Time Battles Summary post or following along using the Depth Chart Discussions tag. (I guess we’ve been using that italicized intro for a while now and I never noticed. My bad, my bad.) The Oakland Athletics project to be the American League’s worst team, per FanGraphs’ depth charts. When your first basemen project to hit for a slugging percentage less than .400, it hurts. Still, the bats aren’t too bad, and some oddly-timed offseason acquisitions make the Athletics offense at least minimally appealing. Middle Infield and the Hot Corner Expect Marcus Semien, Jed Lowrie and freshly-acquired Chris Coghlan to split time up the middle. The former two have played second base, third base and shortstop, and the latter has played second and third bases, all as recently as last year. Semien should see the majority of reps at shortstop. He posted double-digit home runs and stolen bases alongside a league-average .257 batting average. His 98 wRC+ ranked 6th among qualified shortstops last year, but his tumultuous midseason saw two pitiful months — 59 wRC+ in June, 26 wRC+ in July — sandwiched by four well-above-average months. The peaks and valleys hurt his ownership and obscured not only his late-season value but his 2016 preseason value as well; he ranks only 13th among shortstops in NFBC ADP. Lowrie hasn’t been particularly relevant the last two years, but he, too, exhibited double-digit power and middling batting averages at one point. He’s an below-average BABIP (batting average on balls in play), but not .233-BABIP low, and he notched a career-best hard-hit rate (Hard%) in a small-sample window last year. He recorded more than 1,200 plate appearances between 2013 and 2014, so injury concerns might be somewhat shortsighted. At 29th off the board among shortstops (and 402nd overall), you could go extra cheap at shortstop in deep leagues and probably be OK. Coghlan revamped his game last year, posting the lowest chase rate (O-Swing%) of his career alongside his highest hard-hit rate. He didn’t quite match 2014’s 125 wRC+ because of a 53-point deficiency in BABIP, but the double-digit power and speed in only 503 PAs made for solid value. Coghlan is a cerebral hitter and appears to have proverbially found himself. In other words, there’s no reason, aside from age-related decline, to think he couldn’t repeat his 2015 but with more gusto. And age-related concerns ought to be kept to a minimum — dude’s only 30, after all. The three of them figure to split something like 1,500 PAs (Danny Valencia should see the bulk of the work at third base), and Coghlan will shuffle into the outfield mix as well. Barring injury, all three could see substantial-enough playing time to make them worthy targets in deep leagues at the very least; for Semien, in the shallowest leagues as well. For the sake of mentioning them, Joey Wendle and Eric Sogard comprise Oakland’s punchless middle infield depth. Wendle has flashed marginal power and speed, but these accomplishments coincided with utter abandonment of once-promising plate discipline. He’ll need to regain the discerning approach we saw in Double-A to be the least bit appealing. Outfield Following the acquisition* of Khris Davis, there really aren’t any loose ends in the Athletics’ outfield: Davis in left, Billy Burns in center, Josh Reddick in right. As aforementioned, Coghlan and his versatility will likely pick up the playing time scraps on rest days. However, Coco Crisp still exists as a living, breathing human being with at least one year remaining on his contract. Entering his age-36 year and coming off an injury-riddled season, Crisp is not especially attractive (in fantasy terms; he’s still as dashing as ever), nor does he command playing time amid Burns’ presence. But he was perpetually above-average for the five seasons preceding 2015 — all in his 30s, mind you — flashing decent power, solid speed and excellent plate discipline. All of those things vanished in 2015. His hard-hit rate plummeted, his strikeout rate spiked, he rarely ran. And that’s scary. But it’s hard not to attribute his deficiencies to his neck or his wrist or his elbow or whatever else ailed him last year. Crisp, like Rajai Davis, still possesses enough speed despite old age to make a difference on the basepaths. And even if the power has left his bat for good, I anticipate him returning to form in terms of plate discipline and BABIP. If Reddick holds down the fort in right field, Crisp out to at least cede PAs from Billy Butler, who, since 2013, really has been no better a hitter than Crisp. Butler has played at least 151 games every year dating back to 2009, however, so even time spent as a designated hitter will be hard for Crisp to come by. Still, Crisp’s name is one to remember in AL-only leagues. In the event of an injury — especially a Burns injury, knock on wood — Crisp should not only find himself in a normal role again but also contribute meaningfully to boot.