Franklin Barreto was originally signed by the Toronto Blue Jays as a free agent out of Venezuela in 2012, signing for $1,450,000 and viewed by many observers as the top hitter from Latin America that summer. After a strong 2014 season in the Northwest League (.311/.384/.481), he was a key prospect in the winter 2014 trade that sent Josh Donaldson to Toronto.
He’s continued to hit well: .302/.333/.500 in High-A in 2015 and .284/.342/.422 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2016.
Barreto was graded as a Grade A- and ranked as the top prospect on the pre-season Oakland Athletics 2017 Top 20 prospects list with the following commentary:
1) Franklin Barreto, INF, Grade A-: Age 20, hit .284/.342/.422 with 11 homers, 30 steals, 36 walks, 94 strikeouts in 479 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; line drive hitter but with improving power, aggressive approach but makes hard contact and avoids excessive strikeouts; not as fast as the 30 steals may imply, however his power potential may be under-appreciated by some observers and he may eventually hit 15+ homers a year; strong throwing arm best defensive asset but shortstop range is just okay and there’s some risk he may wind up at 2B; needs a year of Triple-A but has been very young for his levels. ETA late 2017.
His 2017 performance is similar to past seasons: .281/.326/.426 in Triple-A with eight homers so far. His BB/K ratio is not good at 17 walks against 92 strikeouts in 285 at-bats; more on that in a moment.
Barreto is listed at 5-10, 190, a right-handed hitter and thrower born February 27th, 1996. Despite his status as a lauded prospect, many observers in recent months have concentrated on his weaknesses rather than his strengths. His strikeout rate has spiked this year, up to 29.8%, far higher than his previous standards. Walks are down, too, and while his surface slash line still looks OK, his overall production has slipped, with a wRC+ of just 92 this year compared to 120 in 2016 and 122 in 2015.
PCL observers report that he does look considerably more aggressive this year, perhaps forcing things to speed his arrival to the majors. He does seem more pull-oriented. All that said, his isolated power and batting average are holding at previous standards, he remains a steady defender, and at age 21 he is quite young for Triple-A.
My guess is that Barreto will have some early adjustment issues in the majors but given his youth and the entirety of his track record, he’ll work it out eventually and produce a solid batting average with moderate power. His glove is playable at shortstop but long-term his range will fit better at second base.