OAKLAND -- The A's infield boasts some of the most elite young talent in the game, with more on the way for a transformable team on the rise.
Already, Oakland has infield studs Matt Chapman and Matt Olson residing on the corners, sandwiching the middle-infield duo of Marcus Semien and Jed Lowrie. Lowrie is signed only through 2018 and Semien through 2020, but the A's have replacements nearly at the ready.
:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::
Middle infielders Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo, who could ultimately occupy those spots, have been recognized by MLB Pipeline among the Top 10 shortstop prospects in the game. Barreto came in at No. 8, while Mateo locked down the No. 9 spot.
Barreto, of course, is the club's No. 1 prospect and has long been considered the obvious choice to assume second-base duties upon Lowrie's departure -- which could unfold long before season's end should the A's flip him in a trade. Barreto is set to begin the season with Triple-A Nashville, allowing him more time to be groomed. Mateo, too, is slated for play with the Sounds. Both will be just 22 when the season opens.
Mateo, listed by MLP Pipeline as the organization's No. 4 prospect, came from the Yankees in last year's Sonny Gray trade, bringing with him the type of athleticism that's long been missing from Oakland's roster. Considered to be the most athletic player in the A's system, Mateo displays elite speed and carries an excellent arm -- transferable skills that could make him a strong outfield option, as well.
But the A's, who watched him hit .292 with four home runs in 30 games for Double-A Midland following the trade, aren't ready to make a position switch.
"I think you keep him at short for a while," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "You look as the closer he gets here, is there a need somewhere else? He's probably athletic enough to play anywhere."
Mateo will be in big league camp with Barreto, who will be making his third appearance on the Major League side this spring. He totaled three home runs in 19 Cactus League games with the A's in 2016 and compiled a .481 batting average in 16 games with them last year. He later made his big league debut at age 21, swatting a homer in his second at-bat.
Barreto struggled at the plate for much of his stay but also showed an occasional glimpse of what's to come, hitting a walk-off homer against the White Sox on July 4. He totaled 15 more homers with Nashville, batting .290 with a .339 on-base percentage.
A's executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, who acquired Barreto from the Blue Jays in the 2014 Josh Donaldson trade, leads a group of decision-makers who want Barreto to force his way onto the Major League roster for good.
"I want a young player to sort of push, where his performance is so good that he sort of pushes himself in," Beane said.