Heading into the 2009 baseball season, there may not be a team with more question marks than the Oakland A's.
A team that if all goes well could possibly contend for the American League West crown. But also, a team where finishing in last place is not completely impossible either.
The oft-injured Athletics roster is starting off the season whistling a familiar tune. Projected ace Justin Duchscherer is on the shelf already, as is co-closer Joey Devine. Not to mention that infield mates Mark Ellis and Eric Chavez are both trying to come back from offseason shoulder surgeries.
With Duchscherer beginning the season on the Disabled List instead of at the head of the A's rotation, the A's staff is even younger than originally projected. But, loaded with talent.
They will begin the season with rookies Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Josh Outman all in the starting rotation. The other two starters completing the rotation are Dallas Braden and Dana Eveland, both only 25.
Hard to expect good results from such a young pitching staff, however, the A's have done well with young pitching staffs in recent memory. Haren, Harden, Blanton, Hudson, Mulder, and Zito are all names that ring a bell.
The bullpen added 40-year old veteran Russ Springer into the mix, but the rest of the bullpen has an average age of 26. Brad Ziegler will hold down the closer's role depending on how the Devine injury unfolds.
The polar opposite of the A's pitching staff would have to be their infield. Not counting 25 year-old catcher Kurt Suzuki, the rest of the starting infield is all over the age of 30.
New additions Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera, and Nomar Garciaparra add some much needed veteran leadership to this team.
If they can remain healthy, the starting infield of Giambi, Mark Ellis, Cabrera, and injury prone Eric Chavez should be very solid. Bobby Crosby and Nomar Garciaparra will provide quality depth to the infield.
With the addition of Matt Holliday to an already serviceable outfield, the A's outfield could very well be their biggest asset.
Ryan Sweeney, who played well last season, will be leading off again this season and manning center field.
Travis Buck, only 25, needs to return to his 2007 form. He will split time in right field with all or nothing slugger Jack Cust.
Holliday, needs to prove he can hit somewhere besides Coors Field, and his career numbers show that he is fairly average elsewhere. But he will still be an upgrade to the middle of their lineup that lacked any pop last season.
Young speedster Rajai Davis rounds out the outfield and will be often used as a pinch runner and late inning defensive replacement.
The A's are a very young team. The A's are also a very talented team. If the young pitching staff can hold up, the A's offense should have enough firepower to keep them in contention.
However, if the A's continue to be riddled with injuries, this could quickly turn into a long and miserable season.
General Manager Billy Beane, by adding free agent veterans instead of releasing them, seems to think the A's can make a run at the top of the division this season.
And, if all the question marks surrounding this team turn out with positive answers, this 2009 A's team can be very good.