Welcome to second week of the Oakland Athletics' position breakdown analysis.
Last week we took a look at the catcher position, this week we will take a look at the A’s first-base depth moving into to 2012.
It was a bit of a revolving door in Oakland at that position in 2011, beginning with Daric Barton as the starter on Opening Day.
Barton got off to a slow start both offensively and defensively, and eventually saw himself demoted to Triple-A.
Conor Jackson took over the starting role at first base before he was eventually traded to the Boston Red Sox following the emergence of Brandon Allen, who was acquired in a trade deadline deal to be the new every day first baseman.
The A’s also have Chris Carter in the system, and made a trade for another first baseman to give a look in spring training.
We’ll see if the team sticks with this current group of first basemen or add a veteran to push the youngsters before the season begins.
Without further ado.
Following his acquisition from the Arizona Diamondbacks at the trade deadline, Brandon Allen was an instant success in Oakland.
He showed the athleticism and defensive ability that had been lacking at the position for much of the season. He just kept hitting while putting on impressive power displays in both Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.
Unfortunately, he cooled off significantly down the stretch and finished the season with a very underwhelming .200 batting average (.205 in his time with the Athletics).
He has the type of power that has been missed in Oakland since Frank Thomas’ departure from the team, and he is the favorite heading into the winter as the regular starter in 2012.
At the time of his acquisition, manager Bob Melvin mentioned his athleticism and the ability for him to slide into an outfield position if necessary, something I’m sure the team would love to avoid.
It could be helpful if the team dips into the trade or free agent market in search for another veteran first baseman.
Entering the 2011 season, the A’s had publicly committed to Daric Barton as their starter moving forward.
He entered spring training having slimmed down with added lean muscle, appearing to be in the best shape of his professional career. He had a solid spring training and several reporters, myself included, believed he was headed for a breakout year.
That simply never happened as he got off to a slow start at the plate and his Gold Glove-caliber defense turned into more of the “iron glove” variety.
Following his demotion to Triple-A Sacramento and further struggles against minor league pitching, we learned that he had a shoulder injury he had been playing with throughout the entire season.
His season finally ended with surgery to repair his shoulder and will hopefully enter spring training fully recovered and ready to compete for first base.
Barton may not be afforded that opportunity though with the depth the A’s have been adding at the position since his struggles began.
Rather, my belief is that Barton will wind up packaged with another player and be granted a change of scenery and a fresh start with a new organization.
If he does return to the A’s, it will likely be in a backup role and he will need to learn to fill in as an outfielder on occasion as well in a role similar to that occupied by Conor Jackson this season.
I believe it is still too early to give up on Chris Carter as a major league player, but that time is approaching quickly and he will need to make an impression fast in spring training or he will find himself looking for a fresh start elsewhere.
Carter’s 0-for-30 streak in 2010 has been highly publicized, although he did come back up following that and have a decent stretch to end the season.
Unfortunately, he could not repeat that success in his opportunities in 2011.
He had a decent season in Triple-A, although not overly impressive, but had zero success in Oakland.
Add to that is his complete ineptitude with the leather at first base and he seems destined to become a full-time designated hitter. Of course, in order to occupy that role, he will need to learn to hit major league pitching and show that he can make the necessary adjustments.
If he makes the club out of spring training, it will most likely be in a DH platoon role and backup at first base.
The acquisition of Kila Ka’aihue screams of a depth-only move to me.
He has been a solid minor league player throughout his time in the Kansas City Royals system, batting .272 with 11 homers for Omaha this season and .319 with 24 homers in 2010.
His successes in the majors have been practically non-existent though.
He showed a little pop in 2010, hitting eight homers in just 52 games, but he batted just .217. This season, his stats dropped as he batted just .195 with a pair of homers in 23 games with the major league level.
Ka'aihue has proven to be solid defensively and should fit nicely with Sacramento.
His familiarity with Pacific Coast League pitching should help his productivity for the River Cats and keep him fresh in the event of injuries in Oakland when the team needs his services.
It will take an impressive spring showing to crack the major league roster though.
Although the A’s already have several options at the position, they lack a known entity that will demand respect from opposing clubs at an important production position in the lineup.
Brandon Allen and Chris Carter could wind up evolving into that role in the future, but that is still very much up in the air with their inconsistency.
Daric Barton may rebound and contend for comeback player of the year, but he is more likely headed for a change of scenery if he doesn’t win the position back during the spring.
I would prefer to see the A’s head outside the organization and pick up a veteran first baseman that can push the rest of the group in spring training and force legitimate competition.
Joey Votto would be ideal, but falls into the zero-chance category. He would instantly take over the starting role without any competition.
I’m thinking a player such as Michael Morse of the Washington Nationals, who has the versatility to play another position if necessary, or even Carlos Pena or Derrek Lee, who could both find significant time in a DH platoon as well as give Allen or Carter playing time at first base.
Next Sunday we’ll take a look at how Jemile Weeks, Adrian Cardenas, Adam Rosales and the rest of the A’s system stack up at second base heading into 2012.
Prior Position Breakdowns:
This article also featured on BaySportsNet.com