The Oakland A's 2006 season was marked with injuries, and no positions were effected more than second base and shortstop.
The A's dipped into their minor league rosters for middle infielders for D'Angelo Jimenez and Mike Rouse, who each played in eight games. Jimenez ended up on the A's post-season roster when Perez went down with a broken finger during the last weekend of the season. Jimenez wound up playing in five post-season games after Ellis broke a finger in Game Two of the Divisional Series.
Good-Bye And Hello
After a post-season during which he committed two crucial errors, Jimenez was released by Oakland. He eventually signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals. Both Perez and Scutaro were arbitration-eligible and both were offered contracts and will return to the A's in 2007.
The A's added two middle infielders to compete for bench positions this off-season: J.J. Furmaniak and Donnie Murphy. Furmaniak, a former Padres and Pirates prospect, was signed to a minor league deal and was invited to spring training. Murphy, a former Royals prospect, was picked-up on waivers and added to the 40-man roster.
Middle Infielders Invited To Camp
Number Of Middle Infielders Likely On Roster – 4
Locks To Make The Team
Bobby Crosby: This may be a make-or-break season for Crosby. After a decent rookie season, Crosby's sophomore and junior campaigns have been riddled by injuries and inconsistency. He is a top-notch defensive shortstop, but he has yet to reach the offensive potential that many saw for him when he entered the league. The A's would like to see him grow into a middle-of-the-order hitter, but he will need to avoid the disabled list to have that happen.
Mark Ellis: Ellis may have seen his batting average drop considerably, but he still had a productive season while he was healthy. He set a major league record for fielding percentage for a second baseman and he hit 11 homeruns in 124 games. He also was among the leaders on the team in pitches seen per at-bat. Both of his injuries were of the freak variety. The A's are a better team when he is on the field, so he will need to stay healthy for Oakland to have a good season.
Favorite For The Final Spot
When the A's acquired Perez from Los Angeles last season, they thought they were getting a talented offensive player who was capable of playing third, second and short. In 2005, Perez hit .297 with 11 stolen bases in 98 games for the Dodgers. The A's would love to get similar production from Perez in 2007. Despite being offered arbitration, Perez is likely on thin ice with Oakland. If he looks bad in spring training, he could be let go. If he plays well, he could get a lot of playing time this season, considering the injury history of the A's starting middle infielders.
Battling For The Final Spot
Murphy will enter camp with a good chance to open the A's eyes. He was a top prospect for Kansas City as recently as 2005 and is still young enough (24 in March) that he could have a long career as a major leaguer. Murphy has above-average power for a middle infielder and is capable of playing both second and short. As a member of the 40-man roster, even if he doesn't make the 35-man roster out of camp, Murphy will be on a short-list to be recalled to Oakland if any of the A's middle infielders were to be hurt.
Furmaniak is a maximum-effort player who can play third, short and second base. He is a long-shot to make the team out of camp because he isn't on the 40-man roster. However, he could position himself for a mid-season call-up if he has a strong camp and gets off to a fast start in Sacramento.
Here For The Future
Melillo will need at least a half season at Triple-A before he gets a shot at the big leagues. However, he could do a lot to cement himself as the A's second baseman of the future with a strong showing in camp.
Storyline To Watch
The A's haven't had a healthy middle infield in three seasons. Ellis was hurt during spring training in 2004 and Crosby suffered early season injuries in 2005 and 2006. In addition, A's third baseman Eric Chavez has battled injuries in each of the last three seasons. If injury history repeats itself, the A's could have a wide-open competition among middle infielders for a bench job in camp.