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When the Oakland Athletics activated Brandon McCarthy from the disabled list on Saturday, they cleared room by optioning first baseman Daric Barton to Triple-A Sacramento. The first baseman had a .198/.325/283 slash line in 126 plate appearances since coming off the DL a few days after opening day.
Barton had surgery to strengthen his labrum and repair a frayed rotator cuff last September. He began the season on the disabled list with what the club called a strained shoulder. After a spring in which the 26-year-old played intermittently, action that rarely included time in the field, it was clear that he wasn't quite ready for the campaign. It appears that he still isn't.
Kila Ka'aihue is the beneficiary. Bob Melvin, the A's skipper, essentially declared the 28-year-old the winner of a competition for PT at the position that lasted well into the regular season, according to Joe Stiglich.
Ka'aihue's numbers in 131 plate appearances (including a .225 average, three home runs) aren't impressive, but as Melvin told the club's official site, regular ABs give him a chance to build a consistent approach.
The left-handed hitter boasts the power to hit 25-plus bombs - even though he's playing half of his games at O.co Coliseum. The Kansas City Royals, his old organization, seemed to lack faith that he'd accrue other hits frequently enough to satisfy the demands of a big-league team, however.
The .218 career hitter in 403 at-bats appears to be proving them right. But whether he's received enough of an opportunity to say definitively that he can't hit in the majors is debatable.
Ka'aihue's BA profile is far from outstanding. Last season, he struck out in more than 27 percent of his plate appearances and made contact on 73.1 percent of the pitches he swung at. His plate discipline marks from 2011 are likely less representative than his body of work as a whole (nearly 80 percent and 20 percent lifetime), however.
This year, the 28-year-old has pulled his indicators up to his career norms, and he may actually receive the kind of lengthy trial he's craved for the past few years. His 7.6 percent walk rate should rise substantially, given his track record, and that'd please the A's for sure.
Ka'aihue isn't destined to put up anything more than an Adam Dunn-like BA, but that's acceptable if he supplies the kind of power numbers that he's capable of producing. He's not a sexy pickup, but his opportunity gives him clear roto value, and those in deep leagues, especially those who yearn for what he can provide, shouldn't leave him hanging.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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