Daric Barton: Is it time?

With the A's offense continuing to struggle, it may be time to consider letting the Daric Barton era begin. Barton's performance in Sacramento has been nothing short of remarkable for a 20-year old (turns 21 in August). Here is his line through 68 at bats:

AVG: .353
OBP: .488
SLG: .559
ISO: .206
BB: 18
K: 11
2B: 2
3B: 3
HR: 2

A few things stand out. Obviously first has to be the On-Base Percentage, standing at .488, as well as the BB/K ratio of 18:11. Barton has consistently demonstrated a command of the strike zone that would rate as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Second would be Barton's emerging power, which has been the largest knock on him thus far. Let's look at Barton's 2005 stats:

A+ Stockton (292 AB):

AVG/OBP/SLG: .318/.438/.469
ISO: .151

AA Midland (212 AB):

AVG/OBP/SLG: .314/.410/.491
ISO: .177

This is extremely positive news in Barton's development. It seems as though the theory that power is the last tool to develop is holding true with Barton. Furthermore, Barton sacrificed some OBP for increased power during his stint at Midland; this has not been the case in AAA, with Barton's OBP standing well over 100 points above his batting average.

Returning to the original question: Is it time for Daric Barton to be called up to Oakland? The criteria for bringing him up to the big club, in my mind, should be whether Barton currently represents a marked improvement over whoever's ABs he would be taking -- if he's only "a little better" right now, it's probably not worth it.

So how good would Barton be? At the beginning of the year, PECOTA 50th percentile prediction was .263/.343/.395 for an OPS of .738, certainly not enough to justify taking ABs from Dan Johnson or Jay Payton.

However, Barton's performance over his first 68 ABs in AAA has undoubtedly changed that outlook. Barton's numbers have shown no deterioration despite advancing another level; rather, Barton has seemingly taken several steps forward and raised his game another level. If Barton can maintain his current performance through, say, 100-125 ABs, I would forecast him being able to hit .290/.400/.460 THIS YEAR.

Inserting those types of numbers into the lineup could be the impetus that puts the A's over the top this season.

My question to you, AN: If Barton continues to tear the cover off the ball, where do you play him? Is his defense at 1st base good enough to not be a complete liability out there? Can Frank Thomas make a start a week at 1B?

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