The A's are lucky in that they've been able to survive and even thrive these past two seasons despite the titanic-sized number of injuries they've had. Well, maybe not lucky per se, especially last year when Billy Beane prepared for the problems by bringing in a lot of extra depth. The Bobby Kielty, Jay Payton, Kirk Saarloos and Joe Kennedys of the world were invaluable.
The 2007 edition of the A's will not have that same luxury. If Rich Harden doesn't last more than a few starts, then you're looking at a rotation with Danny Haren as the ace, Esteban Loaiza as the number two, Joe Blanton as the number three, Joe Kennedy as the number four and likely Jason Windsor (or possibly Shane Komine) as the number five. And while that's not a horrible rotation, it certainly is a far cry from Zito, Hudson, Mulder and Lidle/Lilly. That's why I've been so adamant that it's absolutely, positively necessary that Harden stay healthy. You want to put that A's rotation against Santana, Shrek, Spicoli, Slingblade and the Colonel? I know I don't.
At the same time, the A's have been fortunate to have Marco Scutaro who has played waaaaay too many games these past two seasons. I love Marco, no one should doubt that (and I still haven't seen A Player to Be Named Later), but if the A's have too many games with Scoot roaming the infield this year, they will be in deep trouble.
This is a make or break year for Bobby Crosby and the A's absolutely must have Mark Ellis healthy at second base in order for them to win. I do believe that Ellis will come back a better offensive player than he was in 2006. In essence, if Crosby can stay healthy, he's at least a significant defensive upgrade over Scutaro and he should provide more power.
The thing about Scoot that makes him valuable is that he is a good shortstop, albeit without much range, and he's really brought his OBP up. He went from .297 in his first year with the A's to .310 all the way to .350 last season. But in this day and age in baseball, a team needs a bit more power from that shortstop position than the .390 slugging he provided. Crosby's slugging was way down last year as well, but it was .456 in 2005 and I think that could very well be where he is and the A's need Crosby's power and range.
So what ultimately am I saying? Nothing new in that the A's absolutely must have a healthy Crosby and Harden in 2007, but I thought I'd say it in simpler terms in that if the A's see too much of fan favorite Marco this year, it will mean that the A's likely won't see October either.