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Oakland’s Franklin Barreto Knocking on the Door

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A’s top prospect nearing big league debut

MLB: Spring Training-Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Indians Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Lawrie is teamless, so is Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman has become a serviceable back-of-the-rotation starter.

Unfortunately for the Oakland A’s, Josh Donaldson was the 2015 American League MVP and now calls himself a bonafide superstar for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Fortunately for Billy Beane’s A’s (they’re his, right?), they also acquired Franklin Barreto in the Donaldson deal, along with the three others named up top.

Barreto was 18 at the time of the trade and projected...quite a bit. His upside was off the charts but there was a considerable floor to be weary of. Two and a half years later, he’s bypassed most expectations, especially according to our own John Sickels.

Ranked in the top 100 by all Minor League outlets, he’s in the top 10 on Sickels’ list, boldly placing him where nobody else dared to. (His highest rating elsewhere was Baseball America’s 40 spot.)

Now 21, the Venezuelan middle infielder has absolutely torn through the A’s farm system, a more-than welcoming development considering the organizational strife that has befallen on the team in recent seasons.

Handling Triple-A Nashville now, he’s on the doorstep. But there are a few obstacles in his way.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Fall Stars Game Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

First is the ‘ol “Super Two” designation. Oakland will likely hold off his promotion until his potential service time for 2017 doesn’t interfere with his inevitable arbitration years.

Second is that, despite his stellar numbers so far this season (.312/.356/.500), he’s striking out a lot. 55 strikeouts counts for 27 percent of his at-bat’s. He has 11 walks. In 2016, he sported a 86:36 K:BB ratio in Double-A but hit .281 with 25 doubles, 10 home runs and 30 stolen bases.

So he’s striking out a lot? He’s 21, on the brink of “The Show” and already has nine doubles, four triples, six home runs, 27 RBI and 25 runs scored this season. He’s also stolen three bases (caught four times).

He’s been playing a lot of shortstop, his natural position but one the A’s have experimented moving him off of. He’s seen plenty of time across the diamond at second base and there were outfield rumors for a while, given the depth at infield in the system and the lack of it in the outfield.

Rightfully so, Oakland chose not to mess with their prized pupil.

As it so happens, second base has ceased to be a position of need at the Major League level.

2017 has been a revelation for the 33-year old Jed Lowrie. Tucked away in the Dagobah-like swamplands of Oakland, you probably had no idea that he’s become their everyday second baseman, and that he’s also crushing the baseball.

Entering May 27th, Lowrie is hitting .310 with a .376 OBP and even .500 slugging percentage (eerily similar numbers to Barreto). Six home runs already triples his 2016 total and his 27:17 K:BB ratio has been a pleasant surprise for the pleasantly surprising Oakland Athletics.

Opposite Lowrie is Adam Rosales. The castoff veteran-laden A’s are enjoying the home run sprints of the quirky Rosales but there’s little else in his arsenal beyond an amazing teammate and a great smile.

Marcus Semien —acquired from the White Sox for Jeff Samardzjia in a desperate attempt to recoup the Addison Russell loss— is hurt and not worth fretting over.

That leaves Barreto without much competition. His path to the full-time shortstop job in Oakland is crystal clear. Seven errors and a developing batter’s eye mar an otherwise pristine résumé for the highly touted prospect, but the big leagues are just around the corner.