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Future looks bright for Barton

Future looks bright for Barton

When you see Daric Barton play, think about the numbers he's capable of putting on the back of a baseball card and witness the raw power, it's difficult not to be amazed at the future many are predicting for the big first baseman.

What's most amazing, though, is that he's still a teenager. He won't turn 20 until August and when you speak to him, the starry-eyed kid sometimes shines through, especially when the subject matter is the Futures Game that will take place on July 10 in Detroit.

There's a boyish charm as he talks about the prospect of possibly meeting Ivan Rodriguez while in the Motor City and what he expects to get out of playing with some of the game's brightest young stars.

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"It's a great honor being named a top Minor League prospect," Barton said. "I'm really looking forward to playing with those other guys, Triple-A guys like [Tucson's] Conor Jackson. I hope to learn a lot of stuff from them. It's going to be awesome.

"I wish I could stay and watch the Home Run Derby. It would be cool if I could run into Pudge [Rodriguez]. That would be something else, he's the total package. Overall, it's going to be good to be around a Major League park, play in it and be around the stars from all of the Minor Leagues."

If Barton, who is tearing up the Class A California League while playing for the Stockton Ports, remains on his current path, it probably won't be too long before some youngster is viewing him in the same light. He's 10th in the League in hitting (.319), tied for ninth in RBIs (51) and is hitting .319 as the California League takes a break for a few days to play the Carolina League in the Class-A All-Star Game.

"As a first baseman, you think of power guys," said Barton, who has eight homers through 75 games after hitting 13 in 90 games last year for Peoria of the Midwest League. "I started the season off slow, but I've picked it up the last month. I feel real comfortable at the plate now, and I'm not trying to do too much."

While Barton may not be trying to do too much, Oakland, Stockton's parent club, will someday be expecting much of him, simply because of how he arrived in the organization this winter. Barton, a former first-round pick by St. Louis (2003), was part of the deal that sent Mark Mulder to the Cardinals last winter.

Being traded for one of "The Big Three" can certainly put pressure on a young player, but Barton doesn't see it that way.

"Just being mentioned in the same trade as a Major League player is a thrill all together," he said. "It's amazing that they liked me enough to give up one of their best players. I guess they liked me for a reason."

Barton would appear to be a Jack-of-all trades, getting drafted as a catcher. But he played first and third base during high school and says the move from behind the plate and back into the infield is going smoothly.

"I was catching for about a year and a half, but I'm pretty comfortable anywhere," he said. "On the corners, behind the plate, I'm just trying to get better offensively and defensively. I got drafted as a catcher, but I caught maybe 15 games in four years of high school. I went to the Area Code Games and decided to catch there because that's where I would be seen the most and noticed.

"I thought I had a better chance of being noticed as a left-handed catcher. That's a rarity from what I heard. But first base is a cool position. I'm in the game a lot, I get in on a lot of plays and any time you're in there, the action is good. The game is harder and faster here than in high school, but overall I've done well."

Barton has worked with coach Ron Washington on improving his angles and position at first base. He says he also benefited from being in Major League camp this spring, though he did miss some time after undergoing an emergency appendectomy.

It's all added up to a pretty special season for the California native, one's he hoping will be just as significant through the second half.

"I see myself here all year," Barton said. "If they want to move me up, I guess they'll move me up. I've been swinging the bat real well, and hopefully I'll keep it going for the second half, we make the playoffs and then win."

Kevin T. Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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