The second A’s prospect I scouted was Franklin Barreto. Barreto was the final piece in last offseason’s Josh Donaldson trade, with some pegging him the key piece. MLB Pipeline has Barreto as the 2nd ranked prospect in the A’s system behind only Matt Olson. Barreto stands 5’9" and weighs in at 175 lbs. He was signed out of Venezuela by the Blue Jays. Barreto impressed last year in low A ball with a slash line .311/.384/.481. Currently in his third year of pro ball with A+ Stockton, Barreto is hitting .261/.309/.424. The scouting grades from MLB Pipeline are the following - Hit: 60 | Power: 45 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 45 | Overall: 55.
Overall some pretty good grades, including a couple 60s.
Now let’s look at some video I shot. On the day I saw Barreto, he went 1-3 with a walk, strike-out and a double. Go through this compilation a few times to get a feel for his approach at the plate.
Before I break down the swings further, I want to add a few comments from watching him live that don’t show up in video as well. To me, Barreto’s approach at the plate lacked consistency. His stride distance and tempo were all over the place, regardless of the count. Sometimes Barreto looked patient, other times jumping at offerings. I don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors, but to me it looked like Barreto was going through some sort of change in either swing or approach without full trust yet. Looking at some older scouting footage, I didn’t see anything drastically different. So it may just be I saw him on a day he wasn’t sharp. But it was something I noticed and stuck with me into writing this piece.
Barreto only put two balls in play, so let’s take a look at those. Here’s a great example of the inconsistency. In this swing, Barreto brings his leg into the kick, then puts it back down, then scoots it forward. This isn’t a two-strike approach either, he was first-pitch swinging. Baffling.
Probably not coincidentally, Barreto’s best swing of the day resulted in a double of the CF wall. Let’s play it here and go through it.
Going through Barreto’s pre-swing motions into his swing, we see that he is very relaxed and rhythmic in his motions. I am a fan of this. You hear a lot of coaches telling hitters they need to be loose in the box, and Barreto seems to have taken this to heart. Although, with the swing inconsistency, you start to wonder if being so relaxed and loose is a problem. More on that later. Let’s take a look at his stride.
Barreto employs a leg lift and a large move back on his rear leg. From there he softly strides forward. If you pay special attention, you will see that his lead hip barely returns to its original starting place. In a lot of the swings I saw he in fact did not return to his original starting point but lost ground. For someone who doesn’t have a lot of mass to put behind the ball, I would like to see him get off the backside with more strength and consistency.
Watch really closely how Barreto finishes the movement toward the catcher. See how at the most rearward point, his back hip has caved some, forcing some bend in his rear knee (you can see his head lower as well). From there, Barreto comes out of this movement by extending the front leg to "pull" the body forward. I call this movement "getting stuck". Barreto gets over the rear leg too much and has a hard time getting moving forward. Typically you want to see some overlap from the front knee going back and the rear hip driving forward. This way, the body carries the front leg to touch instead of the lead leg pulling the body. I believe is the major source of Barreto’s inconsistency, he’s getting stuck.
Take a look at this footage of Ben Zobrist I shot in Spring Training. See how the rear hip starts moving the torso forward before the front knee reaches its apex. The movement isn’t back then forward. There is some overlap between the movements to prevent getting stuck (to see more hitters using overlap to avoid getting stuck, watch this video).
After the stride is when Barreto starts to do things really well. Moving into contact, the upper body function is very, very nice. I’ve read scouts say Barreto has a knack for putting the barrel on the ball. I can see that in this swing.
So what’s the verdict? Truthfully, I left Stockton really disappointed. Barreto just looked so inconsistent I just couldn’t see how he could ever get to that 60 hit grade. The Donaldson trade did not set well with me (to put it lightly) and I was hoping Barreto would look amazing and I could take Beane off my hit list. As the time has passed since seeing Barreto live I keep thinking one thing – Barreto is only 19. It makes sense that he is raw and inconsistent – to a degree. The key will be improving. This one is going to be really interesting to follow. I don’t believe he can be productive with that much inconsistency. If Oakland’s development system can tighten things up (quite) a bit Barreto may indeed by an impact player.
If I was given the task of developing Barreto, my first task would be to clean up his movements. I’m not necessarily talking about changing his swing, more strengthening and grooving some fundamental patterns. I believe with some added strength in the lower body some of the inconsistencies would start to go away. Yep, just a little lower body strength and stability training and I believe we could get Oakland’s #2 prospect unstuck.