By Will Carroll
February 29, 2012
Want to know if a medical staff can make a difference? Here's your evidence. The A's brought in Nick Paparesta from the Tampa Rays before the '11 season and saw their team shoot up from dead last to 15th, one of their highest rankings since they've been kept. Even with that finish, they rank 28th in the five-year rank, an anchor that will hold them down for a few more. Paparesta and his staff will need to continue making progress despite the team's penchant for a combination of young, risky pitchers and older hitters. It's the former that's crushing, with even one Tommy John surgery putting 180 or more days onto the tab. They have that in Brett Anderson and with several other young pitchers (and the loss of Gio Gonzalez); the front office isn't making Paparesta's job easier. It's pure Moneyball to do things on the cheap and any money they're putting into sports medicine is cheaper than even a major league minimum salary, with a lot more payoff.

Health Keys: Keep young pitchers and older players healthy until they come to a productive middle.

(HEAD TRAINER: Nick Paparesta; FIVE YEAR RANK: 28; 2011 RANK: 15)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
C Kurt Suzuki
It's really odd. The A's haven't been good at keeping players healthy, but Suzuki, and before him, Jason Kendall, have been among the most durable catchers.

LF Seth Smith
Thought to be a pure platoon player, Smith handled the full-time role well last season. The increased workload didn't tax him physically either.

3B Scott Sizemore
You can never see a torn ACL coming.

Also Green:
DH Brandon Allen
CL Brian Fuentes

SS Cliff Pennington
Pennington is showing the downside of a college player. You know what they are, but they're older when they get there (usually.) Any level repeated or injury costs even more. Pennington lost some power coming back from shoulder surgery and dealt with nagging injuries that make him seem even older than 27.

CF Coco Crisp
The A's brought Crisp back because, despite a run of leg injuries, he still put up 49 steals. The nagging injuries are part of his game, but he's never seemed to lose a step from them either.

RF Josh Reddick
Reddick could play CF, and with Crisp there, he probably will for 30 games or so. He's never gone through a full major league season, so there's some risk that he won't handle the workload. He's young enough to prove he's not a fourth OF.

SP Jarrod Parker
Parker's a full 18 months past Tommy John and he showed that he'd lost none of his stuff. Parker, like most young TJers, didn't lose any development to Tommy John, which many theorize is a side effect of the rehab. His control came back as the season went on. He shouldn't go much beyond 160 innings, but the A's should be able to manage him effectively.
SP Brad Peacock
Peacock's going to have to prove he's good enough to hold his slot, especially with Anderson coming back midsummer. If he can do that, then the A's will worry about managing his innings load. He's fine up to 150 or so.
RP Grant Balfour
Balfour is anything but controlled and sometimes his high effort level will cost him an injury. He had an oblique strain last summer, but was fine before and after. Something like that isn't that big a deal, but The System deals with probabilities, not projections.
1B Daric Barton
Barton has been a prospect so long that the guy he was traded for is out of the game and Barton still has a chance to become something. Then again, tearing the labrum in a hitter's shoulder is a bad way to get somewhere. Brandon Allen didn't hold the job, but Barton's not going to be fully healthy at the start of the season either. With Chris Carter the other option, it's enough to make Billy Beane look up Erubiel Durazo. Wait, no it's not.

2B Jemile Weeks
When I'm asked what's going to be the biggest development in baseball in the next 10 years, I kind of sound like this. Except I say "genetics", plus I'm not nearly as sweaty, crazed looking or rich. Compare Rickie Weeks with Jemile Weeks through age-equivalent years and you'll get it. Weeks is dealing with the same kind of nagging leg injuries, so I hope Nick Paparesta is checking his wrists daily. The red is a bit overblown, but not by much.

SP Brandon McCarthy
McCarthy joked about not being one of the young "Four Aces" and ended up the P1 as they fell by the wayside. He did have a stress reaction in his shoulder, the kind of catch that may have saved his career. He's never going to be a 200-plus innings ace, but he's the best the A's have for now.

SP Brett Anderson
Anderson is out until at least June, replaced in the P2 slot by Bartolo Colon, after Tommy John surgery. He started throwing in November and should be on a mound by Spring Training, but the A's will be conservative with his return. Of course, people don't believe in some of the things out there about young pitchers and heavy workloads, like the one Anderson had in '09.

SP Dallas Braden
Red isn't enough here. Braden never really recovered from the stress of his no-hitter, which seems to multiply the stresses of pitch counts. (See: Smith, Bud and even Schilling, Curt.) Braden's season ended in May and he had capsule surgery, similar to what Johan Santana had. The idea of him being healthy and effective is a long shot with little upside, though I hope for Braden that I'm wrong. He's had enough to overcome in his life.

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