Sunday, November 22, 2009

Possible First Base Option: Daric Barton

A top prospect since being a part of the package that landed Mark Mulder in St. Louis, Daric Barton hasn't quite taken hold of the first base job in Oakland as expected. But people certainly shouldn't write off Barton, because he still has a chance to be one of the better first baseman in the game. The bigger question is whether that could happen in Oakland, given that Brett Wallace, Chris Carter and Sean Doolittle should be ready to contribute at the major league level very soon.

This leaves the Athletics with a nice problem, as they have to figure out what to do with all of those bats, as Wallace tries to stick at third base and Carter tries to adjsut to left field, neither of which is likely to work out particularly well. If the Athletics consider trading Barton to make room at first base for one of those guys, which is really more of a when rather than an if, then he could be a very appealing piece to any team in need of a solid first baseman with good OBP skills.

Barton's biggest flaw has always been a lack of power for someone on his side of the defensive spectrum, but he makes up for it with excellent contact skills and a very developed, patient approach at the plate. Barton was given the everyday job in Oakland in 2008 and struggled, posting a .226/.327/.348 line in 523 plate appearances, but he still posted a strong walk rate, and was pretty unlucky with balls in play and converting fly balls into home runs. He rebounded quite well in 2009, with a .261/.386/.458 line in 313 plate appearances with AAA Sacramento, and an improved .269/.372/.413 line in 192 plate appearances in Oakland.

He's consistently posted great walk and strikeout rates in the upper minors while flashing solid gap power, and he's also a plus defender at first base, an observation supported by both scouting reports and defensive metrics. He could certainly find a place as a first baseman in the Nick Johnson/Lyle Overbay mold, churning out doubles with a high OBP and above-average defense.

I'm not saying that the A's should shop Barton because he'll never be helpful to them, but it's not clear how he fits into their long-term plans and he's a guy that they would presumably consider moving. If Oakland is willing to deal Barton in order to get playing time for more highly touted young players, they're not exactly a contender in 2010 anyways, for teams like the Mets, Indians, White Sox, Orioles, and Mariners, Barton could be a great fit. He's not the 40-homer masher that you ideally want at first base, but he could definitely be a nice addition for someone with a hole there.


  1. I can't imagine Oakland would move Barton anytime soon. Cust will be kept around for this last year then that opens up the DH spot. Carter will end up playing some in the outfield and DHIng. Doolittle will be in the outfield. Everidge will get some last chance at bats this year. No matter what the A's will give Wallace as long as they possiblly can to develop at 3b.

  2. Fielders generally hit their peak in their early-to-mid twenties, and if Wallace has such awful range at age 23, then it's highly unlikely that he'll ever develop into more than a below-average defender at third.

    It seems to me that the A's have three spots (1B, LF, DH) to fill, and four players to fill those spots. I'm not saying that Oakland should go and shop around Barton, I'm just pointing out that this is a guy that other teams could look at, because he should be relatively available given the other players in their farm system.

    It appears that by 2012, the A's could have an infield of Wallace, Weeks, Green and Cardenas, with Carter at DH and Doolittle in left field, presumably with Barton playing elsewhere.

  3. Ahhh, the Cardinals drafted Wallace for one reason, to trade him, and they did precisely that.

    If Wallace could stick at 3b, the Cardinals would have kept him. We have a glaring hole at 3b right now, and his power would be extremely welcoming behind Pujols, but instead, he was shipped away. Why? The FO saw him as a 1B/DH type, and with a certain hombre at 1b and no DH spot, Wallace had no spot in the organization.

    The point of this obviously being that Wallace will not stick at 3b unless you have a REALLY good rangy SS. So Wallace in 3b will not work.

  4. Totally agree.

    I in no way expect Wallace to last at third for more than a year or two. Realistically, as I mentioned above, I think that the A's will eventually have a lineup sort of like this:

    1B: Wallace
    2B: Weeks
    3B Cardenas
    SS: Green
    LF: Doolittle/Cunningham
    CF: Sweeney
    RF: Brown/Desme
    DH: Carter

    That would be optimistic to expect everyone to pan out obviously, but my guess is that the lineup would look something like this if that was the case.