Posted: Tuesday March 1, 2011 12:04PM ; Updated: Tuesday March 1, 2011 12:04PM
Will Carroll
Will Carroll>INSIDE FANTASY

Athletics Team Health Report 2011

For a million bucks, you could sign a third-round pick, a cheap filler free agent, or .. well, that's about it these days in baseball. For the team that's most associated with Moneyball, the A's have often had to do more with less. That makes it all the more curious that they haven't done more with their medical staff. A million bucks doesn't do anything on the field and not much in scouting, but for a medical staff, it would be like winning the lottery. There's no team that, all counted, has an annual budget of more than a million dollars. Signing an additional Athletic Trainer to go at every level would cost maybe a quarter of that money. Half could go toward research, if you really tried, and the rest could be facilities improvements. It's the kind of no-brainer investment that could only get ignored in a sport that's proud of the quote, "a dollar not spent on payroll is a dollar wasted." The A's are getting more serious about getting this part of their team out of the bottom of the rankings, bringing in former Rays assistant Nick Paparesta to rebuild the medical staff. There are new doctors as well, but we'll see just how quickly, if at all, they can turn things around. Bob Alejo, the S&C coach most known for his work with Jason Giambi, still wields quite a bit of power in the organization and any sort of "not on the same page" issues sap the possibility of a turnaround. With a lot of risk on the roster, Paparesta's got one heck of a challenge this year, which is why no staff should ever be judged on one-year numbers.

(HEAD TRAINER: Nick Paparesta; FIVE YEAR RANK: 26; 2010 RANK: 30)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
 
GREEN LIGHT
C Kurt Suzuki
Like Jason Kendall before him, Suzuki is an everyday catcher who doesn't seem to absorb the same kind of damage that other catchers do. That said, he's one play at the plate away from being a problem, like every catcher. Still, if you're looking for sheer consistency, Suzuki's the guy.

1B Daric Barton
Barton finally showed some of the hitting ability he was brought in for, but did it through a series of nagging injuries. I'm not sure if it's a good sign that he was able to do it or a bit of luck that might not be reproducible, but I hate this rating.

DH Hideki Matsui
I'm a bit stunned too, but Matsui has been durable aside from that last year in New York and The System heavily weights what he did in a full year as DH. RP Brian Fuentes
An absolute sleeper for saves because of Bailey's risk.
 
YELLOW LIGHT
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
Scouts still love Kouzmanoff and there's a chance he'll move to Seattle before the season, returning a disgruntled Chone Figgins. He's a very low yellow and any sort of uptick in his team adjustment would have him green. I need to double-check if Kouzmanoff and Barton got confused by The System. I wouldn't complain if you flip-flopped their ratings.

CF Coco Crisp
Crisp has spent the past three years fighting through injuries and at this stage in his career, there's little reason to think he can adjust. All of his injuries have been traumatic, so taking it down a notch with a bit less diving and sliding would help. Then again, without those things, Crisp wouldn't be much of a player.

SP Gio Gonzalez
Gonzalez has always gotten by on a plus curve and he did it last year, as well. He developed pretty well last year, doing all the things you hope a young pitcher would do -- limiting hits and homers -- but his control is always going to be an issue. He's never going to be efficient, he's going to hang some curves, and there were enough quirks in his stat line to feed the skeptics. The System didn't like his big innings jump, but at 25, repeating 190+ would be a huge positive.

SP Trevor Cahill
Cahill might be the listed third on many depth charts but he was the ace of the staff, exhibiting the one skill that no one else in the rotation did last year: durability. He had a big innings increase in 2009, but it didn't seem to affect him and went above 190 in a nice progression. He's still young and two hard seasons might have an effect on him, but Cahill might be the guy who emerges as the special one out of the big batch of pitching prospects the A's had a couple years back.

SP Dallas Braden
No-hitters are hard and Braden's disposition didn't help him. He's a bulldog with a chip on his shoulder, but he was fatigued by his one big day and never got all the way back. He didn't do so much damage that he becomes the next Bud Smith, but he's not likely to be better than he was last year. We should all have such a moment in our lives.
 
RED LIGHT
2B Mark Ellis
Ellis used to be productive, but injury-prone. Now, he's marginal and injury-prone. He could be decent enough for 100 games, but 120 or more seems to be expecting too much of his body. His legs are shot, killing his speed and defense.

SS Cliff Pennington
Pennington ended a nice season with shoulder surgery, which could hurt his defense, especially early. His legs are where his value is, so the rating speaks more to general risk than specific, something that could cause Pennington to be slightly undervalued, especially in standard roto formats.

LF Josh Willingham
This is where finding undervalued players meets medhead issues. Willingham is probably cheap and seems an old style Moneyball player, but the injury risk for a plodding ex-catcher coming off knee surgery sucks some of that value away. That's not to mention the "death spiral" risk. Teams reach a point where there's so many injuries and only so much medical resources, leading to a loss of prevention and what I've termed the "death spiral" where more and more players pile on. (See: Mets, 2009 and Red Sox, 2010.) Bringing in additional risk, even with pop, has a cost, especially considering Chris Carter is available.

RF David DeJesus
It's easy to compare this deal to the one that brought Johnny Damon along the same trail, from KC to Oakland. Don't fall in that trap. Damon was durable, younger, and better. DeJesus should be able to come back from the thumb injury that crushed his 2010, but at 31 and already pushed to a corner, he can't afford to lose anything in his bat.

SP Brett Anderson
Last year, the A's came into the season with so many young pitchers that they had to know there was no way they'd make it through the season with all of them healthy. They had to build a system where they could go a decent amount of innings and then be subbed out, while hoping the few older guys did their job. It kind of worked out, but only because the A's had so much pitching depth. It was far from ideal and Anderson shows the good and bad of this plan. He was ace-level good when he was in there, but a scary elbow injury and a knee problem limited his innings. He was coming off a huge innings increase, so the A's have to avoid that issue again. At 23, he's got a couple more seasons to survive and develop, but that could be said of a lot of pitchers who's names you wouldn't recognize.

SP Brandon McCarthy
Remember what I said about importing risk? This is one of those situations. For every time that a Carl Pavano suddenly becomes healthy somewhere, there's 10 cases where the predictable pattern is followed, like say, Ben Sheets. McCarthy is, at best, a placeholder or innings sponge. You can't tell me that the A's wouldn't have been better off letting Bobby Cramer take this slot and giving the money to the medical staff instead of McCarthy.

CL Andrew Bailey
A cleanup procedure on a closer's elbow isn't normally a huge warning signal, but there's a bit more to Bailey than meets the eye. His elbow has been a problem in the past and his unique mechanics make it even tougher to judge. Bringing in Fuentes shows that the A's are worried too.
 

 
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