OaklandClubhouse Mailbag #10

In this week's mailbag, we look answer questions about the trade of Omar Quintanilla and the future of top prospect Daric Barton.

What is the reasoning behind the trade of Omar Quintanilla? He is very close to the majors, he seems to have more upside than Mark Ellis or Marco Scutaro, and the A's did not receive such great players in return. Is it because the real second baseman of the future is Cliff Pennington? If so, when is he going to switch to second, and what's his estimated time of arrival in the majors?

Simon, Montreal, Canada

At the beginning of the season, it would have seemed almost unthinkable that the A's would trade Omar Quintanilla in a "non-blockbuster" trade. At the start of spring training, Quintanilla was clearly the A's best minor league middle infield prospect. That was particularly important considering the A's were thin in middle infield prospects. Quintanilla had a decent showing in the major league spring training camp and it appeared that he was well on his way to joining the A's infield in the 2006 season.

Somewhat surprisingly, Quintanilla was sent to AA-Midland instead of AAA-Sacramento, in large part because the A's had a number of minor league infield veterans already at Sacramento. It appeared that Quintanilla would have a good chance to dominate at the AA level since he appeared advanced for that level of competition. However, he never took off at the plate the way he was expected to.

When he was traded to Colorado, Quintanilla was hitting a respectable .293 for Midland. However, his on-base percentage was a mediocre .347 and his slugging percentage was almost a non-existent .395. Essentially, Quintanilla had become a singles hitter without tremendous speed. It is still possible that he could develop into a solid top of the order hitter with decent gap power and a good batting eye, but his performance for the first four months of the season had lowered his value as a top prospect.

While the A's are still thin in middle infield prospects, there is reason to believe that a few of the A's other middle infield prospects had moved past Quintanilla on the depth chart. One notable middle infielder is Kevin Melillo, who was a 2004 draft choice. Melillo had an injury-plagued 2004 season, but he was a top collegiate player and he has been outstanding at the plate this season. Melillo, a second baseman, crushed his 15th homerun of the season on Thursday – a season that has been split between A-Kane County and A-Stockton. Melillo is hitting a combined .313 and he has an OPS nearing 900. He has been red-hot since joining Stockton on July 4th, and he could be promoted to AA-Midland before the end of the season.

The arrival of 2005 first round draft choice Cliff Pennington also made Quintanilla more expendable. Pennington, like Quintanilla, is a table-setter by nature. However, Pennington has more speed than Quintanilla and more natural tools in the field. Pennington is currently playing shortstop, but he is expected to be moved to second base, likely as soon as spring training 2006. It is hard to say exactly how long it will be before Pennington is ready for the major leagues, but the fact that he went right to Kane County (skipping short-season A) tells you that he is going to be moved quickly by the A's if he plays well. He is off to a decent start for the Cougars and he could move up to Stockton by the end of the year.

With Daric Barton's promotion to Midland, what do you see has his ETA in Oakland and at what position? There has been speculation of his possible move to the outfield.

Everett, Sacramento

Daric Barton's future position has been a matter of much debate amongst scouts and A's fans alike. Barton was a high school infielder who was drafted as a catcher and then converted to first base by the A's this season. There are now rumors that Barton will be on the move again, this time to the outfield. Like another former St. Louis Cardinals farmhand, Barton will likely play a number of positions over the next couple of seasons until there is a good fit. Albert Pujols saw time at a number of positions over his first two seasons before settling at first and it is likely that Barton could have a similar future.

Barton will almost certainly not be a catcher at the major league level, but he could easily see time at first, corner outfield and DH. However, his position in the field isn't likely to determine how quickly he gets to the major leagues. If he continues to hit the way he has throughout his minor league career, the A's will find a place for him to play every day. After all, the A's found a spot in the field for Jeremy Giambi, and Barton is, by all accounts, a much better natural athlete than was little Giambi.

Like with Pennington, it is hard to know exactly when Barton will arrive in the majors. Some have speculated that he could be in the A's line-up as soon as next season. If Barton tears through AA and sees time in AAA-Sacramento by the end of this season, it is possible that he will merit serious consideration for a 2006 major league roster spot. However, if he spends the rest of the season in AA, Barton will more than likely start the 2006 campaign in AAA-Sacramento.

Barton began his stay with Midland red-hot, but he has cooled down over the past week. He is second youngest player in AA and it is likely that he will have an adjustment period against the higher level of competition at AA. How quickly he gets through that adjustment period will likely determine how quickly he moves to the major leagues.

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