Oakland A's Prospect Report: Franklin Barreto

On Friday evening, the Oakland A's traded away Josh Donaldson in exchange for four players from the Toronto Blue Jays. In this piece, we take a close look at the top prospect among the four players the A's received from Toronto, shortstop Franklin Barreto.

Name: Franklin Barreto
Position: SS
Height/Weight: 5’9’’, 175
Age: 18
Originally Signed: July 2, 2012 by Toronto

When the Oakland A’s traded star third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, they received four players in return. Three of those players were on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster at the time of the deal and all three could play a role in the A’s 2015 season. However, it was the fourth player in the deal who could end up being the biggest prize.

Franklin Barreto was one of the most well regarded July 2nd prospects in 2012 and he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays for $1.45 million. In January 2013, Scout.com’s Patrick Teale spoke with the Blue Jays’ International Scouting Director Ismael Cruz about Barreto. Cruz raved not only about Barreto’s tools, but also his make-up.

“For us Barreto is one of these game-changing type of guys,” Cruz told Teale. “You put him on the field and he wants to win. He'll bring a lot to the table. He has a plus-plus speed. He knows how to play the game which is hard to find with Latin guys [with] game experience and all of that. He has an above-average arm and a bat that will play anywhere right now. If I had to have one guy to play anywhere I'd choose him because he's a tough guy, a grinder, and he's a winner.”

Interestingly, when Teale asked Cruz to compare Barreto to any big league player, Cruz compared him to Brett Lawrie, who was one of the other players the A’s acquired for Donaldson.

“The type of game he plays is [Brett] Lawrie, he plays hard,” Cruz said. “He's that type of guy. He'll run hard, he plays hard. He'll play his ass off for you. He doesn't talk a lot but he plays a lot so he's the perfect guy.”

Barreto was so advanced when he signed that the Blue Jays that Toronto assigned him to a US affiliate for his professional debut rather than starting him in Dominican Summer League. Barreto spent his professional debut season playing at the Rookie ball level. In 59 games between the GCL Blue Jays and the Appalachian League Blue Jays, Barreto hit .279/.343/.482 with four homers and a 42:13 K:BB. Barreto was just 17 during his pro debut and was one of the youngest players in both leagues he played in.

Barreto moved up to the short-season Northwest League for the 2014 campaign. The fourth-youngest player in the league, Barreto put together an outstanding season for the Vancouver Canadians. In 73 games, he posted a .311/.384/.481 line with six homers and 29 stolen bases in 31 chances. The league average slash line for the pitcher-friendly Northwest League was .256/.334/.369 for 2014. Barreto led the league in runs scored (65) and RBI (61) and finished third in stolen bases. He was 10th in the league in batting, ninth in OBP and seventh in OBP.

The A’s know only too well how difficult it can be for prospects to put up good numbers in the Northwest League, especially playing their home games at Vancouver’s Scotiabank Field. Vancouver was an Oakland A’s short-season affiliate from 2000-2010. Barreto’s home split was .293/.373/.421. He hit .329/.394/.537 on the road.

Longtime Canadians’ broadcaster and Director of Communications Rob Fai got an up-close look at Barreto throughout the 2014 season. Fai put Barreto into some rare company.

“I have been covering the Northwest League for nine seasons and I would put him on-line with Jurickson Profar as the best shortstop I have seen on this circuit,” Fai said via e-mail. “Hard contact almost every single at-bat and he is a guy that can steal you a bunch of bases.”

Fai said that Barreto still has some work to do with his base-running, but Barreto received some legendary instruction on swiping bases during the season.

“Good speed around basepaths although his instincts need work,” Fai said. “He spent time around Tim Raines this season working on first step, etc. and even with rawness was top three in league with 29 swipes.”

Barreto should continue to receive Hall of Fame-level instruction with the A’s, as Rickey Henderson regularly tutors A’s minor leaguers on the art of base-running.

Like Rickey and “Rock”, Barreto packs a lot of punch into a small frame. Barreto stands just 5’9’’, but he has a well-built lower half and has some power in his bat. He isn’t likely to be a middle-of-the-order slugger in the big leagues, but Barreto has enough power that he could reach double-digits in homeruns and he could generate plenty of doubles.

Fai said that Barreto’s bat is “really advanced for his age,” but that he was vulnerable on fastballs up and sliders away. Despite those weakness, Barreto had a slightly lower than league-average K-rate in 2014. He also walked less than the league average player, something he may work on as he moves into the A’s system.

Defensively, Barreto has room for improvement at shortstop, although Fai notes that Barreto has a “huge arm, but needs to work on footwork.” Barreto committed 26 errors in 68 games at short last season with Vancouver. The A’s like to make sure their infielders are versatile, so Barreto is likely to see time at second base and third base, as well as shortstop, although the A’s will give Barreto every opportunity to stick at short. If Barreto has to move off of shortstop, he has the arm to play third base and the speed to play center.

If Barreto is assigned to Low-A Beloit next year, he will be sharing the shortstop position with another highly regarded prospect in the A’s system, Yairo Munoz. For that reason, the A’s could skip Barreto up to High-A Stockton to ensure that both players get regular time at short next year. Barreto will turn 19 next February.

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