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Franklin Barreto building off his first MLB experience

NASHVILLE — Oakland Athletics top prospect Franklin Barreto got his first taste of the big leagues earlier this year. The 21-year-old is looking to build off of that experience now that he’s back in Triple-A.

Franklin Barreto / Photo by Chris Lockard
Oakland A's top prospect Franklin Barreto learned from his first taste of the big leagues. / Photo by Chris Lockard

Nashville Sounds SS/2B Franklin Barreto is short in a couple of ways.

He’s short in experience at just 21 years old – he’s more than a half-decade younger than the average Triple-A player – and he’s also quite generously listed at 5’10”, but he’s definitely not short in either talent or potential.

Barreto, who was acquired from Toronto as part of the Josh Donaldson trade in 2014, is ranked by OaklandClubhouse and others as the top prospect in the A’s system for good reason. The A’s think so much of him they brought him up in June for a taste of the big leagues when injuries decimated Oakland’s middle infield. Barreto homered in his second big league at-bat.

“That was a pretty good moment for me,” Barreto said through interpreter and teammate Renato Nunez. “I was just trying to put the barrel on the ball and try to hit it, and it was a homer, so I was excited.”

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Barreto also hit a walk-off home run for the A’s just before he was optioned back to Nashville about two weeks later.

“I was surprised that they called me up so early, but now that I’m here [in Nashville] right now I’m just focused on working so I can get back there and stay there,” Barreto said.

Barreto is still just adjusting to Triple-A after primarily playing for Double-A Midland last year.

“[Triple-A] is different than Double-A because there are more experienced guys pitching,” Barreto said. “They’re always calling someone up and sending somebody down [at the majors], and you’ve got to make that adjustment.”

While Barreto has solid numbers in his first season at the Triple-A level (a .277/.324/.439 slashline in 98 games), he’s not satisfied with his performance. He points to his 126 Ks in 439 plate appearances as an area he needs to improve.

“I think this year I’ve been striking out a lot because I’ve been trying to do too much – trying to swing too hard and that’s what I’m working on right now; trying to relax at the plate and just hit the ball and put a good swing on it,” said the gap hitting right-hander.

While Barreto can sport his wheels – he had 30 stolen bases last year for Double-A Midland last year – he hasn’t hit the gas on the basepaths too much this year, with 10 stolen bases, and he’s been caught stealing seven times.

Barreto said stealing bases is just not a big priority for him right now.

“This year I haven’t stolen that many bases; I just haven’t been trying to steal bases this year,” he said. “But, I don’t know; every time I see I have a shot to go, I try to go, but I haven’t really focused on stolen bases this year.”

Instead, he uses his speed after he hits. He has 47 home runs in his five-year minor league career and 108 doubles and 23 triples. This year, Barreto has five triples with Nashville and one with the A’s. Those six triples are the most he’s had in a season since 2013, his first professional campaign. He has matched his career minor league high in homeruns with 13 and has added two more at the big league level.

In the field, Barreto came up as a shortstop, but he has recently learned to play the second sack.

“I think it’s all about working, and we practice a lot to get the feeling of second base,” he said, “and I think I’m getting really good at second base. I really like it.”

Judging by fielding practice Saturday, he’s quite comfortable anywhere in the middle infield, as he tossed baseballs to first base both behind his back and between his legs to first base from second base, so he seems to really enjoy the defensive aspects of baseball.

It’s hard to believe he’s just 21 years old. With his multi-skill set, Barreto seems poised to soon be a fixture in Oakland for years to come.

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