That was Then...
Seeing division rival Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim open their sizable wallets, the A's rebuilt their team and stocked their farm system by dealing away three very good pitchers in Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey and Gio Gonzalez.
Anchored by then-39-year-old Bartolo Colon, the A's took a very young and inexperienced pitching staff into the season along with new addition Yoenis Cespedes and a bunch of relative no-name hitters.
With little expectations, a funny thing happened on the way to a sub-.500 record.
Outfielder Josh Reddick found his power, hitting 32 home runs on the season, and young hurlers Brett Anderson (2.57 ERA), A.J. Griffin (3.06 ERA), Jarrod Parker (3.47 ERA) and Tommy Milone (3.74 ERA) all lived up to, or surpassed their projected upsides.
The A's were 43-43 in the first half of the season, but they caught fire going 51-25 in the second-half, including a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers in the final series of the season to finish as the AL West Division champions.
They made it to the post-season, where they fell to the Detroit Tigers 3-2 in the ALDS.
...This is Now
Josh Reddick became a fan favourite in Oakland, not only because of his 32 home runs, but for his hustle on defence. If the A's want to repeat in the West, Reddick will be key.
The A's did some retooling in the off-season. With starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy, shortstop Stephen Drew and outfielder Jonny Gomes all leaving, general manager Billy Beane signed Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, as well as adding outfielder Chris Young, infielder Jed Lowrie and catcher John Jaso via trade.
The deals have made the A's outfield heavy with Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith and Young. While the numbers aren't in their favour even if the DH spot is used for one of these players, health will end up being a factor as Crisp rarely makes it through a season without spending time on the shelf.
While the offence will be a work in progress when the season begins, the strength of the A's will once again be its pitching staff. Despite missing 50 games with a PED suspension, Bartolo Colon will be the veteran experience in a group of starters led by Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker.
Last season, the team was fourth in the majors in bullpen ERA with 2.94, and the key players in that unit return intact. Closer Grant Balfour might miss the start of the year, recovering from a knee injury, but Ryan Cook saved some games last season and will be looked at to fill the role should Balfour be delayed.
The A's, along with the Baltimore Orioles were the surprise of the league last season, and for them to repeat that feat again in 2013, they will once again have to rely on their pitching and defence.
Every year, we look for players 26-years-old or younger that could make an impact on their team in the upcoming season. The player might have already established himself with a regular role with the team, or he could make their mark later on in the season.
Past Picks: 2012 - Jarrod Parker, 2011 - Trevor Cahill, 2010 - Brett Anderson, 2009 - Gio Gonzalez, 2008 - Dana Eveland, 2007 - Rich Harden, 2006 - Joe Blanton, 2005 - Nick Swisher, 2004 - Bobby Crosby, 2003 - Mark Ellis
After a surprise 2012 season, the A's open this year's rankings at 5.
OF Yoenis Cespedes is the top-ranked Athletic, at 73rd overall.
It's not surprising that the A's don't provide great fantasy value in many cases. There aren't a lot of feared bats in the lineup, though they're probably more dangerous than they've been in recent years.
LF Yoenis Cespedes had 23 homers, 16 stolen bases and hit .292 as a rookie last season, so it's fair to expect significant offensive production from him this year, but he's the best of this lot.
RF Josh Reddick blossomed into a power threat last season and CF Coco Crisp can swipe bags and score runs when he's healthy. Newly-arrived 3B Jed Lowrie and C John Jaso could both be considered sleepers.
Pitching, on the other hand, holds some appeal. LHP Brett Anderson is the ace, with Cy Young stuff, but his value gets knocked down by health issues – he has started 38 games over the last three seasons. RHP Jarrod Parker is very promising, coming off an impressive rookie year and then LHP Tommy Milone and RHP A.J. Griffin were effective enough in 2012 to deserve consideration in 2013.