Note: This is the fifth article in a multi-part series assessing the Oakland A’s 2010 season. Read the fourth installment here.
Six years ago, the Oakland Athletics traded away starting pitcher Mark Mulder to the St. Louis Cardinals. In return, they primarily received Dan Haren and Daric Barton.
Haren had a few years of success before the A’s flipped him to the Arizona Diamondbacks. And in 2010, Daric Barton finally entrenched himself as Oakland’s starting first baseman.
The results, after many years of anticipation and hype, were mixed.
Barton easily had his best season as a major-league hitter, posting a .798 OPS and leading the American League in walks with 110 free passes. He also hit a career-high .273 while registering new personal highs in every offensive category.
The 25-year old’s first full season in 2008 had been a disaster; after missing a lot of time in 2009, he bounced back in a big way to establish himself as the A’s first baseman of the present and the near future (at least through 2013).
But there’s still a lot left to be desired out of a major-league first baseman, and Barton comes up short in a lot of areas — despite his drastic improvement in 2010.
His OPS mark ranked only 12th overall in MLB for his position, as his slugging percentage (.405) ranked 20th out of 22 for regular hitters playing first base. He tied for last in home runs (10) and was 21st in RBI (57); he tied for 15th in doubles with 33 two-base hits.
The walks are his offense right now, basically. But since he’s only 25, there is every reason to believe he will get better from here on out. Yet there’s no guarantee of that, either.
On the glove side, Barton was 14th amongst first basemen in fielding percentage (.993), although he posted the second-highest range factor (10.00) at his position. This means he is getting to a lot more balls than his peers, which also means he’s more likely to make some extra errors.
So overall, the A’s are probably content with this fielding, especially considering he had the most chances in the AL in 2010.
Barton is obviously going to be playing first base for Oakland for the next three seasons, and his upside is still impressive considering his age. But 2011 will have to show another significant leap forward in terms of power and run producing for the A’s to make a run at the postseason.
With the young Barton starting 154 games at first base, there wasn’t a lot of mop-up duty at the position in 2010, either. Adding some depth for 2011 would be a nice thought for the A’s in case something goes wrong.