Barreto Soaking It In

DUNEDIN, FL - When Alex Anthopoulos took over as the Blue Jays GM after the 2009 season, he implemented a new rebuilding strategy that centered on the draft, and investing more into scouting - particularly with high-upside prospects from Latin America. Emblematic of this new approach is the $2 million signing of Venezuelan shortstop Franklin Barreto during July of 2012.

Barreto, now 17 years old, was considered the top international prospect at the time by most scouts.

In his first few weeks with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, Baretto has shown why the organization invested so much money in him. Through his first 66 plate appearances at rookie ball, Baretto is hitting .318 and has drawn nine walks compared to just twelve strikeouts.

The Latin prospect explained that the key to his early success at the plate with the Blue Jays has been preparation and just getting in as many reps as he can.

"I'm preparing well," Barreto said through the help of a translator. "Just been going to the cages early every morning. I've gotten a lot of concentration at the plate right now."

While this is Baretto's first professional season in the United States, he has plenty of experience in high-profile international tournaments as a teenager.

He won tournament MVP's in 2006 at the Pan American 12-and-under tournament and 2010 at the Pan American 14-and-under tournament, while hitting .515 with three home runs and eight steals in just 33 at-bats at the 16-and-under World Championship in 2011.

Barreto expressed that he was extremely excited to be in Dunedin, playing in his first professional season, but that he was missing his family back home.

"I'm a little sad because my father is not here and cannot see me progress. It's a different area and different language and my first time here [in the United States]. I'm here without my family, but it's little by little just getting used to the culture."

Perhaps the most concerning thing about Barreto's game so far has been his defense. Upon his signing, many scouts were skeptical about Barreto's future as a shortstop.

While he possesses a strong arm, many believe that his below-average footwork would better suit him at second base or that his plus speed would make him a better fit in centerfield. Barreto stressed that his primary focus throughout Extended Spring Training and this season has been working on his defense.

"What I'm really working on is shortstop – my feet, my movements, and improving there. I've been getting a better feel for it. I've been getting to know my body a little bit better and working everyday to get stronger."

It appears that the high-profile shortstop's defense continues to be a work in progress, as he committed an abysmal seven errors through his first nine games this season in the GCL.

Barreto has exhibited an advanced approach at the plate, as he has shown the ability to hit to all fields with solid plate discipline. While his five-foot-nine stature may limit his power potential, Barreto certainly has the potential to be a .300 hitter at the major league level.

The thing to keep an eye on this season will be whether he can improve his defense -- he has just one error in his last seven games -- and whether the Blue Jays eventually decide to try him out at other positions.

The fact remains that despite his defensive growing pains, Barreto has the potential to be a solid major league hitter. Scouts have compared his upside to that of Shane Victorino or if he sticks at shortstop, Rafael Furcal with less defense. As far as Barreto is concerned, all he is focusing on this season is improving his game as a whole.

"I'm learning about everything, not just one thing. I've learned about my English, being with a different group of players, my defense. My whole game. It's been more about the sum, putting it all together than just one thing," he concluded.


Future Jays Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nBarreto, now 17 years old, was considered the top international prospect at the time by most scouts.
\r\n
\r\nIn his first few weeks with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, Baretto has shown why the organization invested so much money in him. Through his first 66 plate appearances at rookie ball, Baretto is hitting .318 and has drawn nine walks compared to just twelve strikeouts.
\r\n
\r\nThe Latin prospect explained that the key to his early success at the plate with the Blue Jays has been preparation and just getting in as many reps as he can.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm preparing well,\" Barreto said through the help of a translator. \"Just been going to the cages early every morning. I've gotten a lot of concentration at the plate right now.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhile this is Baretto's first professional season in the United States, he has plenty of experience in high-profile international tournaments as a teenager.
\r\n
\r\nHe won tournament MVP's in 2006 at the Pan American 12-and-under tournament and 2010 at the Pan American 14-and-under tournament, while hitting .515 with three home runs and eight steals in just 33 at-bats at the 16-and-under World Championship in 2011.
\r\n
\r\nBarreto expressed that he was extremely excited to be in Dunedin, playing in his first professional season, but that he was missing his family back home.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm a little sad because my father is not here and cannot see me progress. It's a different area and different language and my first time here [in the United States]. I'm here without my family, but it's little by little just getting used to the culture.\"
\r\n
\r\nPerhaps the most concerning thing about Barreto's game so far has been his defense. Upon his signing, many scouts were skeptical about Barreto's future as a shortstop.
\r\n
\r\nWhile he possesses a strong arm, many believe that his below-average footwork would better suit him at second base or that his plus speed would make him a better fit in centerfield. Barreto stressed that his primary focus throughout Extended Spring Training and this season has been working on his defense.
\r\n
\r\n\"What I'm really working on is shortstop – my feet, my movements, and improving there. I've been getting a better feel for it. I've been getting to know my body a little bit better and working everyday to get stronger.\"
\r\n
\r\nIt appears that the high-profile shortstop's defense continues to be a work in progress, as he committed an abysmal seven errors through his first nine games this season in the GCL.
\r\n
\r\nBarreto has exhibited an advanced approach at the plate, as he has shown the ability to hit to all fields with solid plate discipline. While his five-foot-nine stature may limit his power potential, Barreto certainly has the potential to be a .300 hitter at the major league level.
\r\n
\r\nThe thing to keep an eye on this season will be whether he can improve his defense -- he has just one error in his last seven games -- and whether the Blue Jays eventually decide to try him out at other positions.
\r\n
\r\nThe fact remains that despite his defensive growing pains, Barreto has the potential to be a solid major league hitter. Scouts have compared his upside to that of Shane Victorino or if he sticks at shortstop, Rafael Furcal with less defense. As far as Barreto is concerned, all he is focusing on this season is improving his game as a whole.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm learning about everything, not just one thing. I've learned about my English, being with a different group of players, my defense. My whole game. It's been more about the sum, putting it all together than just one thing,\" he concluded.
\r\n
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