The Oakland As Franklin Barreto is baseball’s most unsung top prospect

Yoan Moncada. Lucas Giolito. Alex Bregman. Jose Berrios. Orlando Arcia — just to name a few. The top-30 prospects’ names roll right off the tongue. Quite a few have already been yo-yoed between the majors and minors this year, and nearly every one of them is on someone’s radar, whether as a potential trade target or on the brink of their highly-anticipated debut.

All but Franklin Barreto, that is.

Has there ever been a more unheralded top-30 prospect than the Oakland A’s top future star?

Barreto was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Venezuela in 2012 and by 2013, at the age of 17, he made his professional debut. The 5-foot-10, 190 pound shortstop had a strong showing in the GCL, but struggled a bit once he reached the Appalachian League. Still, at the age of 17, Barreto put up very respectable numbers, combining for a .276/.343/.482 slash line with four home runs and 21 doubles.

The 2014 season was his coming out party as he officially became one of the top infield prospects in baseball. He dominated Short Season ball, nabbing Northwest League Most Valuable Player honors while finishing atop the leaderboard in most offensive categories. He improved across the board, slashing .311/.384/.481 with 23 doubles and six home runs, snagging a career-high 29 stolen bases in 34 tries.

There was no doubting Barreto’s offensive skill-set by the completion of his sophomore campaign. There were serious doubts, however, surrounding his defense. While he possesses a strong arm and mixes in solid range, Barreto committed 54 errors over his first two seasons. Most of his troubles came when he was on the move and throwing across his body.

The Blue Jays would never find out whether Barreto could stick as their future shortstop; after his breakout season, he was shipped off to Oakland for the man who became the 2015 American League MVP, Josh Donaldson. The A’s immediately skipped their new top prospect right over Low-A to see how he could handle Advanced-A in the California League.

If you haven’t noticed the trend, it was a success.

Sure, the California League is known as for being a young hitter’s best friend, but Barreto was a very young hitter. The second-youngest starter, to be precise. The 19-year old didn’t miss a beat as his patented quick bat exploded for a career-high 13 home runs. His exciting season came to an end prematurely, as a shoulder injury shut him down for the year in July.

He hit an impressive .302, but got on base at a underwhelming .333 pace. This has been a minor issue throughout Barreto’s career. He doesn’t strike out at an alarming rate (19.6 percent on his career, a rate that has lowered each pro season) and makes solid and consistent contact, but he also won’t draw many walks. A walk here and there could really benefit Barreto and bring his game to another level. While he doesn’t have elite speed, he is very smart on the base paths, successful in 70 of 94 attempted steals over his career.

The problem again came in the field, as Barreto committed an alarmingly-high 34 errors at the shortstop position for a .911 fielding percentage. While his offense boosted Barreto to elite prospect status, the A’s had no choice but to address where exactly his offense would play. After a brief stint in centerfield in winter ball, Barreto entered the 2016 at shortstop once again; however, he wouldn’t stay there.

To see how Barreto’s 2016 has unfolded and where he projects as a big leaguer, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full article by clicking on the below:

Franklin Barreto: The most unheralded elite prospect in baseball

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