Melvin on Barreto: 'This is his best shot'

February 18th, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- For years has been considered a supremely talented prospect with tools that could make him a star. But if he’s ever going to reach that potential with the A’s, it’s now or never.

After years of being blocked by more experienced players like at second base last year, and two years prior, Barreto enters this Spring Training with the position now vacant after Profar was traded to the Padres in December.

“It’s different for him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Barreto's situation this time around. “The outcome was there before and this year it’s not. He has an opportunity where, if he has the type of Spring that he has had before, it’s going to be tough not to have him be part of that dynamic, whether it’s a left-right dynamic or an everyday role.”

“There’s not one particular guy in front of him right now. This is his best shot,” he added.

Acquired by the A’s in the 2014 trade that sent Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, Barreto has been labeled as the club’s ‘second baseman of the future’ for about five years. After limited stints in the Majors the past three seasons, the 23-year-old Venezuelan is now out of Minor League options, meaning the club would have to place him on waivers were he not to make the Opening Day roster.

Aware of the critical situation, Barreto remained in Florida, where he began strength training and hitting with fellow Venezuelan players Carlos González and Grégor Blanco in early November. He’s put on a noticeable amount of muscle, arriving to camp “thick,” as Melvin put it.

“He knows this is absolutely his job to lose. He needs to seize the moment now,” said A’s assistant hitting coach Eric Martins, who has worked as Barreto’s hitting coach for the last four seasons in the Minors. “We’ve been preparing him for this time for a long time, and now, unfortunately, it’s make-it-or-break-it.”

Barreto has his work cut out for him. He’s one of five players battling for the vacant spot, a group which includes , , and . Veteran infielder , who was signed to a Minor League deal, is also looking to make some noise there. But where Barreto might have the upper hand is his propensity to go off in Spring Training.

Over the years, Barreto has routinely excelled during the spring, like he did last year when he slashed .351/.429/.541 in Cactus League play. The A’s normally don’t try to put too much stock in players’ Spring Training numbers, but given that there is a competition going on for the job, the stats will have to come into play.

“If he comes in and does what he usually does in Spring Training and understands he won the job outright and will get consistent playing time, it’s going to allow him to be the player we all want to see and know what he can do,” Martins said. “He just needs that opportunity to play for a while and be comfortable. It’s scary to think of this lineup if we can get the true Franklin Barreto in the big leagues.”

While Barreto has tried in previous years to revamp his swing in Spring Training, there wasn’t too much he changed this offseason, aside from lowering his hands a bit and trying not to move them too much, so he can stay behind, something he said will help him better recognize pitches.

His focus now is making the club and joining the likes of Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Chad Pinder, all players he ascended alongside in the Minors, as a contributor to another A’s playoff push.

“I didn’t change anything really, just started earlier now that I am living in the United States,” Barreto said. “I tried to take advantage of that to work on my body and have been hitting since November.”

“I prepared well mentally and physically for the year. I know I don’t have options so I’m going to give it my all to win that second base job,” he said.

First day of live BP

There was a lot more action going on at Fitch Park Tuesday as batting practice sessions filled all four practice fields. Established big leaguers such as Mike Fiers, A.J. Puk and Chris Bassitt were among the pitchers who faced hitters for the first time this Spring. Bassitt, in particular, caught the eye of Melvin.

“Chris Bassitt was an unsung hero for us last year and he seems like he’s coming in this camp as confident as he’s ever been,” Melvin said. “What he did last year, very few guys can do, starting and relieving. He came in today looking like his stuff looked really good.”

Pitching prospects Daulton Jefferies and Grant Holmes also had the chance to square off with stars like Chapman, Olson and Marcus Semien.

“First day out here, it’s the pitchers’ time to get a little something on the hitters,” Melvin said. “You’re going on what you see, and I thought all those guys threw pretty well.”