In one corner you have Brandon Allen and Chris Carter as the likely front-runners for the A’s first base job, and in another corner you have Kila Ka’aihue and Daric Barton as long-shots vying for playing time. The A’s have, on paper, anyway, some options to fulfill their first base position this year.
Finding the right option, though, will likely take a little more time to sort out. As of right now, the popular consensus would likely favor Allen as the front-runner for the first base job. Allen, 26, came over from the Diamondbacks that sent Brad Ziegler to Arizona last year. He had some immediate success when coming to Oakland, hitting .394/.432/.758 with two home runs and four RBIs over his first ten games with Oakland.
He ended up hitting just .205/.259/.356 with three home runs and 11 RBIs with the A’s and .200/.277/.377 with six home runs and 18 RBIs overall on the year. Allen was supposedly on the trade block this winter during the offseason, but the A’s may have taken him off. He’s currently the team’s best option for their first base problem.
In 8 games this spring, Allen is hitting .227/.308/.455 with a home run and 10 RBIs. The next best option, right now, anyway, is probably Chris Carter. Carter, 25, was long considered the team’s first baseman of the future, but after several disappointing stints with the Athletics, Carter’s stock as a top-prospect continues to drop dramatically.
Oakland’s former top-prospect is hitting .263/.348/.368 with one RBI over 19 spring at-bats. A notoriously slow starter, Carter’s chances at breaking with the team this year are not looking too good. Still, he doesn’t have much to prove in the minor leagues. He’s a career .283/.379/.540 hitter in the minor leagues and has 170 HR and 586 RBIs over seven seasons in the minors.
Last year, though, Carter didn’t enjoy a smooth transition from the minors to the big leagues. In 15 games with the A’s last year, Carter hit an uninspiring .136/.174/.136 with 20 strikeouts over 44 at-bats. The A’s have an idea of what type of player Carter could be, but there are questions surrounding the team’s patience with Carter’s development. He might be able to make the transition from minor league star to big league starter if the A’s actually gave him the opportunity to prove himself in the majors with a consistent number of at-bats.
If you discard Carter, the team’s next best option becomes Kila Ka’aihue. Ka’aihue is hitting .200/.278/.467 with a home run and three RBIs over 15 at-bats this spring. The A’s like Ka’aihue, the former Kansas City Royal, but his chances at breaking with the team as its starting first baseman aren’t exactly favorable.
In 23 games with Kansas City last year, Ka’aihue hit just .195/.295/.317 with two home runs and six RBIs. He could find himself in the running for the first base job if Carter’s stock continues to plummet and/or if the A’s decide to trade Allen, but don’t count on it. The A’s may have found his walk rate and OBP in the minor leagues appealing, but other than those two things, there’s not much else about Ka’aihue to like.
Barton, meanwhile, finds himself in tricky spot. Coming off a season where he posted terrible numbers, Barton is also coming back this year after having had surgery on his right shoulder. His chances, then, for starting the season in Oakland are slim to none. His status as Oakland’s everyday first baseman is a thing of the past unfortunately, and he’ll have to win a lot of people over before he gets that status back.
The A’s still have plenty of time to make a decision regarding the state of first base, but to say that it’ll be an easy decision is a complete fallacy. Bob Melvin and Co. will have their hands full when making this decision, but right now all signs point to Brandon Allen as being the front-runner for the job. Carter and Ka’aihue, meanwhile, are right behind him.