Barreto looks to seize utility role opportunity

February 17th, 2019
Oakland Athletics' Franklin Barreto throws against the Milwaukee Brewers during the second inning of a spring training baseball game Wednesday, March 21, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)Matt York/AP

MESA, Ariz. -- A's prospect , not so long ago believed to be 's obvious replacement at second base, is now readying to take on a utility role.

Oakland swung a deal with the Rangers for infielder this offseason, pinpointing him as their 2019 second baseman and complicating Barreto's future.

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The A's still highly value Barreto, the key to the 2014 deal, but the club wants him to clock time in the outfield this spring to diversify his skillset.

This doesn't guarantee Barreto a spot on the Major League roster out of camp, with super utility man still in tow, but it heightens Barreto's chances of more playing time in the future -- so long as he can control the strike zone and keep up offensively.

"It's more opportunity for me," Barreto said through interpreter Fernando Alcala. "I think it's going to be a good thing."

Barreto suited up for Tigres de Aragua of Venezuela this winter and he spent the majority of his time at second, but he saw four games in left and one in center, all the while working to cut down on his strikeouts.

He shortened his swing and hit .358 with a .927 OPS in 203 plate appearances, drawing 17 walks next to 30 strikeouts. Barreto also swatted five home runs and tallied 29 RBIs.

"I was just focusing on swinging at good pitches, and the results have paid dividends there," said Barreto, who will celebrate his 23rd birthday this month.

Now, he awaits his turn.

"At some point in time, he's going to have a really good opportunity," manager Bob Melvin said. "We'll see how things play out as far as spring goes. He's still a terrific talent. I know he has a bright future ahead of him.

"He's been blocked a few times, and sometimes that can be a bit frustrating. He does not show that. He wants to be here and play baseball. His teammates love him. At some point in time, he'll break through."