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Rebuilding Reminders: A Little Love For Daric And Eric

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Following up on Blez’ “Go The Distance” plea, and the accompanying discussion of who should stay and who should go, let me weigh in with a couple of related thoughts…

I am strongly in the camp that wants Daric Barton to remain untouchable (barring, obviously, the kind of lopsided trade offer that brought him here). I think Barton’s performance this season (in which he has batted under .300 while still lacking the power associated with a 1Bman) has lost him favor with some A’s fans, but I want to argue that Barton’s AAA stats should not discourage anyone from thinking he can, and probably will, be something truly special.

The problem with AAAA players like Dan Johnson is that they tear up AAA pitching but cannot sustain it at the next level. So their .350 batting average, or their 25 HRs, are really mirages—performances they can only produce in the minor leagues. Meanwhile, in contrast, there are players who may not put up eye-popping minor league stats, but when they are ready they can move up and succeed at the next level. Kurt Suzuki is a good example of someone who hit far worse than Dan Johnson in the minor leagues, but may prove to be a better major league hitter than Johnson—simply by replicating his solid-but-not-spectacular minor league numbers.

AAA is not about putting up a certain batting average, or a certain OPS, that proves you must be able to hit major league pitching—because it doesn’t. AAA is about getting ready for the major leagues, and that’s why the guys who are called up are often not the guys with the best stats that season or that week. The guys who are called up are often the guys who the coaches say are “throwing the ball well” or “swinging the bat well”. It’s all about process.

Daric Barton just turned 22. It makes sense that he is not yet polished, and that he has a lot to refine even as a AAA hitter. He will also disappoint fans who crave 25 HRs from their 1Bman, but he may not disappoint anyone who wants a great pure hitter with an exceptional eye. The A’s biggest problem right now is that they don’t have enough Daric Bartons; the last thing they need to do is to trade one of the few excellent prospects they have. (If Dan Johnson were a Casey Kotchman and Jason Windsor were a Jered Weaver, would we be nearly as worried about 2008?)

Also, while I appreciate what he’s done so far, I’d caution not to jump on the Jack Hannahan bandwagon too quickly. What he has proven so far is that he might be able to hit .250 with a lot of walks and mediocre power, which means his ceiling and Eric Chavez’ floor are about the same. And whether you’re looking at range or fundamentals, Hannahan’s defense, however touted, has been less than impressive to me—I notice Chavy’s absence at 3B almost every single game. So for me, “the distance” includes shedding Kotsay and even Crosby, but we don’t need another hole to fill and I haven’t seen the 3Bman yet who can make me forget about all that Chavez can do.