Prospect Profile: Daric Barton

When the Oakland A's dealt Mark Mulder to St. Louis, many in baseball were left scratching their heads. After all, the A's did not receive one proven major league star for their lefty ace. However, in addition to two promising pitchers, the A's received a prospect who someday may make those around baseball scratch their heads in wonderment that the Cardinals could have ever given him up. His name is Daric Barton and he has the potential to be one of the best hitters of the next half decade.

Daric Barton's first two seasons in the St. Louis Cardinals' organization were so impressive that some within the Redbirds' organization were calling the teenaged catcher "the lefthanded Albert Pujols". Barton, who was the 28th overall pick in the June 2003 draft, won't turn 20 until mid-August. By then, he might be abusing AA pitching.

Daric Barton, Career Statistics

Year

Team

Lg

Age

AVG

OBP

SLG

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

K

XBH

2003

JOHNCTY

ROOK

18

.291

.416

.419

172

50

10

0

4

39

48

14

2004

PEOR

MID

19

.313

.445

.511

313

98

23

0

13

69

44

36



Barton's ascension to blue chip prospect status was a quick one. The Huntington Beach, CA native was only 17 years old when he was selected in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals. Barton was coming off of a stellar senior year of high school. He was named to the inaugural All-American Baseball Team after his senior year and participated in the All-American Baseball game on June 9, 2003. He was one of only 30 high school players to be named to the team. Barton originally committed to Cal-State Fullerton, but signed with the Cardinals after being selected in the first round.

Barton began his professional career in Johnson City, which is a Rookie League affiliate of the Cardinals. Despite playing against competition often one to three years older than he (Barton was only 17 when he started in Johnson City), Barton held his own. He hit .291 on the short-season with a .416 OBP and 14 XBH in only 172 at-bats. Barton walked 37 times against only 48 strikeouts, which was impressive for a young player who had no collegiate experience. He displayed some power but had yet to tap into his full power potential his first season.

His second professional season was delayed by elbow surgery, which he had in January of 2004. Barton missed the first few weeks of the season and then joined the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League (Low-A). Despite missing those early season games, Barton put together a monster season for the Chiefs. He hit .313 with a jaw-dropping on-base percentage of .445 (which led the Midwest League). Barton also displayed excellent power, as he hit 13 homeruns and 23 doubles in only 313 at-bats. He drove in 77 runs in only 90 games. He was named to the Midwest League All-Star team and was dubbed the second best prospect in the Midwest League by Baseball America. Barton was also named the 41st best prospect in all of minor league baseball by the Minor League News network, an impressive feat for such a young player. The publication termed Barton a potential "future franchise player" and stated that if the Cardinals dealt Barton it "better be for more than some magic beans".

Barton has played mostly catcher since he turned pro. He is considered a smart defensive player who could grow into an excellent game-caller as he adds experience. He had an above-average throwing arm before his elbow surgery in January, but the surgery may have reduced his throwing ability to merely average. At 5'11'', Barton isn't a particularly large catcher, but he is quick on his feet and has good reflexes behind the plate. His build is somewhat similar to former A's catcher Ramon Hernandez.

During his senior year of high school, Barton played mostly thirdbase, although he caught the other three years. He has also played some firstbase and some leftfield. With the A's organizational depth at the catcher position, Barton may see time at first and in left next season, as the A's look for a permanent defensive position for the hitting phenom. Although, as a lefthanded hitting catcher, Barton's value may be at its highest if he stays behind the plate. The A's are likely to give him at least one more year where he plays catcher on a semi-regular basis. Barton projects to start the year in High-A Stockton and will likely share some of the catching duties with either Landon Powell or Kurt Suzuki.

Barton's hitting potential is unlimited. His numbers put him on par with such prospects as Andy Marte of Atlanta and Joe Mauer of Minnesota in terms of long-term potential. In fact, as Barton will not turn 20 until August of 2005, Barton is actually slightly ahead of both of those players in terms of hitting development. Barton is already well-built for a teenager, but he figures to fill out a little more as he gets older, which may increase his power potential even further. Although Barton takes a lot of walks, he has a good understanding of the strike zone and isn't afraid to attack a first pitch fastball if the pitch is where he likes it. His approach at the plate is somewhat similar to A's centerfielder Mark Kotsay in that respect.

Barton will join an A's organization that is quickly amassing an impressive amount of hitting talent in the High-A level. With Javier Herrera, Richie Robnett, Danny Putnam and either Powell or Suzuki expected to join Barton in Stockton, the Ports could have one of the most exciting offenses in the California League next season.


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