Here's an interesting tidbit: the day after the MLB draft was complete, the A's shifted their top prospect, 21-year-old Daric Barton, over from first base to third on an everyday basis. He had seen some occasional time at third before, but since June 8, he's played there every day.
Perhaps it is only a coincidence, but the A's did draft Sean Doolittle, a slick-fielding first baseman from U of Virginia, in the sandwich round this year. In a chat at Baseball Propectus, Bryan Smith said:
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin told me that Doolittle was the best defensive first baseman he'd ever seen at the level. Gotta like that.
Doolittle is considered a safe pick, a player who is likely to make the majors, but not likely to be a star. He hits for average, but not a lot of power. Which sounds an awful lot like Daric Barton, except for the "best defensive" part.
Add Doolittle to Dan Johnson and Nick Swisher, and there's a pretty long list of fairly young players in the A's system who can play a better first base than Barton. The line behind Eric Chavez, on the other hand, is practically vacant. Jeff Baisley made some noise this year at low A Kane County, and was promoted up to AA Midland, where he's done OK, but that's about it. You hate to see a 21-year-old relegated to DH duties, so the more ways Barton can get himself into the lineup, the better. Especially on a team as injury-prone as the A's, with a third baseman as injury-prone as Eric Chavez.
Barton has made five errors in nine games at third base, three of them in one game, so the transition has not exactly been smooth. None of the errors were on throws, however. He started out as a catcher, so even if he has little range and bad hands, he should at least be able to make the throw across the diamond.
The move to third may be a struggle for Barton, but the good news is that it has done wonders for his bat. Barton had been off to a slow start at the plate this year, but since moving to third, he has hit a blistering .526/.571/.710.