The Oakland Athletics promoted top prospect Franklin Barreto from Triple-A Nashville ahead of Saturday's road contest against the White Sox, continuing a wave of recent callups as the franchise look toward the future.
Though he was a late addition to the A's lineup, Barreto, who started at second base and batted seventh in place of Jed Lowrie (right knee), made an immediate impact in his debut, connecting on a two-run home run against veteran James Shields in the third inning for his first Major League hit. In doing so, he became the first A's player to homer in his first game since 2001.
Matt Olson (No. 15) and Jaycob Brugman (No. 21) also connected on their first big league homers in the contest -- Olson would ultimately hit two -- making the A's trio the first in MLB history to accomplish the feat in the same game. On the mound, meanwhile, right-hander Daniel Gossett recorded his first big league win.
However, the day belonged to the 21-year-old Barreto, who added a single in the fifth inning to finish 2-for-5 with two runs scored in the A's 10-2 victory.
Ranked 44th on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, Barreto was called on to join the A's after batting .281/.326/.428 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs in 68 games for Nashville. He'd been particularly hot of late, too, tallying seven multihit games in his past 12 contests while hitting .354 (17-for-48).
With the potential to hit for both average and power while sticking at a middle-infield position, Barreto has been viewed as a key piece of the A's future since the club acquired him from the Blue Jays -- who had signed him out of Venezuela at the outset of the 2013 international period -- in November 2014 as part of the Josh Donaldson trade.
Barreto made the jump directly to the Class A Advanced California League the next year for his full-season debut and spent much of 2016 in Double-A, where he posted the Texas League's sixth-best average (.281) with 10 home runs, 25 doubles and 30 steals at age 20. He received his first taste of the Triple-A level later that season, turning in a strong showing for Nashville in the Pacific Coast League playoffs.
Barreto has continued to make progress this year in his return to Nashville, though given his age and previous experience, he understandably still has some gains to make on both sides of the ball.
While undersized at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Barreto has shown he has the strength to hit for power. He employs short, quick swing from the right side of the plate, with excellent hand-eye coordination as well as feel for the barrel that enables him to spray line drives across the entire field. He shows above-average raw power during batting practice -- especially to his pull side -- but it plays more toward below average during games.
That being said, scouts do expect him to clear more fences once he strikes balance to what is currently an overly aggressive approach, with many pegging him as a future .270-plus hitter with 20-homer potential.
Barreto's knack for barreling the baseball fuels said approach, as he looks to ambush pitches early in at-bats but often chases pitches out of the zone in favorable counts while drawing few walks. And even though his strikeout rate spiked to a career-high 29.8 percent this year with the Sounds, Barreto still owns a 21 percent whiff rate in his Minor League career -- highlighted by sub-20 strikeout rates in each of his past two seasons -- and his 5.5 percent walk rate this season is only slightly below his 6.1 percent career mark.
Barreto's speed gives him another above-average tool and makes him a threat to steal on the basepaths. He's still learning how to be an effective basestealer, as suggested by his 63.8 percent success rate (30-for-47) in 2016, which was down to just 44.4 percent (4-for-9) this season. With improvement on that front, Barreto should have no trouble producing double-digital steals annually.
On the other side of the ball, Barreto has the necessary athleticism and tools -- including a plus arm -- to stick at shortstop, even though his overall defense at the position can be inconsistent.
For that reason, some scouts prefer Barreto at second base -- a position at which he's committed four errors in 40 career games compared to 113 errors in 335 contests as a shortstop. And while his future is almost certainly on the dirt, it's worth noting that he has seen time in both center and left field while playing in the Venezuelan Winter League.
With both Chad Pinder and Marcus Semien on the disabled list, Barreto should continue to receive consistent reps at second and shortstop. His current stay in the big leagues will be dictated by their progress -- especially Pinder's -- but it's clear that Oakland believes Barreto will soon be up for good, if he's not already.