Name: Franklin Barreto
Height/Weight: 5’9.5’’, 190
How Acquired: Acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays along with Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and Brett Lawrie for Josh Donaldson in Nov. 2014
Thus far, the Oakland A’s trade that sent Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays has been one-sided in favor of the team up north. While Kendall Graveman may yet still prove to be a solid member of the A’s rotation, top prospect Franklin Barreto will ultimately determine if the Donaldson deal brought back any significant value to the A’s.
There is no question that Barreto is a special talent. The shortstop doesn’t turn 20 until later this week, yet he is already an advanced hitter who may not be far from the big leagues. During his first season in the A’s organization, Barreto demonstrated an ability to overcome obstacles and flashed his prodigious offensive skills. While his ultimate position in the field may be in doubt, his future in a big league line-up seems all but certain. So what kind of player should the A’s expect to see in Barreto?
A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens compares Barreto physically to former All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal. When looking at Barreto, it is easy to see why. Like Furcal, Barreto is an explosive player in a small frame. Barreto is listed at 5’10’’, but he may be a tick shorter than that. However, he is very well built and generates plenty of power, like Furcal did during his career. Also like Furcal, Barreto has above-average speed, although Barreto didn’t attempt many steals with the High-A Stockton Ports last year. Where Barreto and Furcal don’t match-up is with the glove. Furcal was a special fielder at short. Barreto has some tools that could allow him to stick at short if the A’s want to be patient with his development at the position, but he won’t be a Furcal-level defender at any point in his career. Still, even if Barreto has to move to second base or centerfield, there is plenty to like about his overall profile.
Franklin Barreto Stats
Barreto has been on an accelerated development schedule since joining the A’s. He spent his first two professional seasons in short-season ball while with the Blue Jays (Rookie ball in 2013 and the Northwest League in 2014). Barreto posted outstanding numbers for the Vancouver Canadians in 2014, posting an 865 OPS with six homers and 29 stolen bases in 73 games. The A’s had a long run in Vancouver and know that ballpark very well, so they were fully appreciative of how difficult it is for a hitter (especially an 18-year-old) to post numbers like that in that park and in that league.
Barreto’s time in the A’s organization got off to a delayed start when he had to report late to spring training due to a family matter he had to tend to in Venezuela. Despite Barreto’s truncated spring, the A’s weren’t shy about giving him an aggressive assignment. Much as they did with fellow teenage prospects Addison Russell in 2013 and Billy McKinney in 2014, the A’s pushed Barreto right to High-A in 2015 with the Ports.
Much like Russell and McKinney, Barreto got off to a slow start with Stockton. In April, he hit only .171 with one homer. Despite the rough beginning, neither Barreto nor the A’s panicked. He hit .326 with a 908 OPS in May and was off-and-running the rest of the season. A wrist injury cost Barreto the entire month of August, but he still managed to raise his average from .171 on May 1 to .302 in just 73 games. Barreto’s truncated second half with Stockton was a sight to behold. He hit .367/.383/.642. Even the wrist injury couldn’t slow him down. When he returned for the final few games of the regular season, Barreto went 4-for-9 with a homer. He then collected three hits in eight at-bats during the Ports’ post-season run.
A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman was impressed with how Barreto handled his early-season struggles and the challenge of playing in a league with the average age of players 3.5 years to his senior.
“He has great hands and some real hitter’s instincts,” Lieppman said. “There is a little swing-and-miss, but it’s not enough that it alarms you at all. For a young player, he makes adjustments well and is very confident. When he was down, he never let it affect him. It didn’t bother him. He knew he was good and that he would ultimately adjust.”
The right-handed hitting Barreto was particularly effective against left-handed pitchers in 2015. In 88 at-bats versus southpaws, he hit .352/.396/.614 with four of his 13 homeruns and a solid 13:7 K:BB. Versus righties, Barreto batted .284/.311/.460. Barreto’s swing is well suited to facing left-handed pitching because he handles pitches to the outside half of the plate extremely well, according to Lieppman.
“What’s interesting about him is that he has a swing that is built for the middle of the field to the right side,” Lieppman said. “He’s not fooled on a lot of pitches. He can fight a lot of tough pitches off. Most pitchers are taught to go away from hitters and stay away and that doesn’t bother him. He had more trouble with pitches in the middle part of the plate and in, but he had begun to adjust to that, as well.”
According to Barreto’s heat map on MLBFarm.com for 2015, he sprayed the ball all over the field last season. Four of his homeruns went the opposite way. Nearly a quarter of the balls he hit into play were line-drives. In addition, according to MLBFarm.com, Barreto has a lifetime average of .355 with five homers in 167 plate appearances against pitchers ranked among the top-20 prospects in baseball.
Barreto did struggle in the Venezuelan Winter League this season, however, although he was the youngest regular player in the league. He hit only .183 with two homeruns in 35 games for Zulia this winter. His stint with Zulia ended a few weeks early when he developed an abscess on his wrist, but he is expected to be fine for spring training. Barreto began his winter at shortstop but moved to the outfield after committing eight errors in nine games. As long as Barreto’s wrist is sound this spring, the A’s won’t be too concerned with his numbers this winter. That he played in 35 games was enough to make-up for the at-bats he missed during the California League season.
Barreto’s walk-rate and his strike-out rate both went down from his 2014 levels. He has an excellent feel for the barrel of the bat and is able to make contact on pitches in and out of the strike-zone. He has a good idea of what pitches he is able to handle and what pitches to lay off of, but Barreto is still learning to work the count. Barreto probably won’t ever be a huge walk guy, but his chances of being an impactful one- or two-hitter would increase if his walk-rate increases. Still, his low walk-rate shouldn’t be confused for not having a plan of attack at the plate. He is a very smart hitter.
Although Barreto didn’t run much with the Ports in 2015, he should be a weapon on the bases as he advances. He is an above-average runner from a speed perspective and a smart base runner who often looked to take the extra base on balls hit into play last season.
The biggest question surrounding Barreto right now is his glove. He has been error-prone throughout his professional career. His 4.10 range factor for 2015 was a little below Cal League average, although some of that may be because Barreto was paired in the infield next to a third baseman with above-average range for much of the year (Matt Chapman). When watching Barreto in practice, he exhibits plenty of athleticism and a strong arm. In games, he becomes a bit tentative, taking extra steps before throwing and occasionally deciding late on whether to charge in or wait back on groundballs. Both of those issues are correctable in time, but the question the A’s have to answer is whether it is worth it to wait for Barreto’s glove to develop to the point that he can play shortstop in the big leagues, which could delay his debut in the major leagues past when his bat is ready.
Based on his athleticism, Barreto should be able to move over to second base and handle that position well. His arm strength is above average for a second baseman and he could become an asset at that position in time. Barreto played some outfield this winter and centerfield is another option for the A’s to move him should they decide not to keep Barreto at shortstop. Again, his arm should play fine in center and Barreto has plenty of speed to handle the position.
“He’s a shortstop in the California League and he has a chance to advance and be a strong infielder,” Owens said. “We’ll see where that destination holds, but he is an electric athlete and he has a very potent bat.”
Barreto is a non-roster invitee to A’s big league camp. He isn’t likely to receive a lot of at-bats in his first big league camp, but the time with the A’s 40-man roster will give him an opportunity to experience that level of competition and introduce himself to the A’s big league coaching staff. He will almost certainly start his season with Double-A Midland. Whether he suits up at short or somewhere else remains to be seen, but Barreto figures to be a key part of a RockHounds’ line-up that will look to make it three Texas League titles in a row in 2016.