Playing the bulk of their games against the Mariners, Royals, Indians, White Sox and Orioles in the first month of the season, there's actually a pretty decent chance that the A's go into May in first place. Every season, a team comes out of nowhere to surprise everyone, pushing more highly-favored teams for a playoff spot. Last year, for example, it was the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Few teams, however, are able to sustain their success over a full 162-game schedule, like the Pirates and Indians last year, both of whom faltered late in the season. The Diamondbacks, however, were able to maintain their success and overtake the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants for the NL West Crown.
If the A's are to finish like the Diamondbacks and not the Pirates or Indians, then several players have to make a significant leap in production and be on the field every day, not on the DL. The key to the A's success is staying healthy. For the A's, that's easier said than done, but if every key cog can avoid injury and play to their capability, then the A's have a legitimate chance at challenging the Angels and Rangers for a playoff spot in 2012.
These are five players that need to step up their games if the A's are to compete this season.