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Franklin Barreto leads Oakland A’s first wave of September call-ups

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Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Welcome to September! Today is the first of the month, which means active rosters expanded from 25 to include as much of the 40-man unit as desired. The Oakland A’s immediately took the opportunity for reinforcements, announcing four additions on Friday:

  • LHP Sam Moll
  • C Josh Phegley
  • IF Franklin Barreto
  • OF Jake Smolinski

Phegley and Smolinski had been on the disabled list, and both were rehabbing at Triple-A Nashville. Smolinski came off the 60-day DL, but there was already an open spot on the 40-man roster so no corresponding move was needed. The 21-year-old Barreto is the team’s No. 1 prospect, and the 25-year-old Moll is a recent minor acquisition from the Rockies. Here’s more on each player, in order of how interesting I think they are.

Franklin Barreto | IF

2017 AAA: .290/.339/.456, 104 wRC+, 15 HR, 15 SB, 5.3% BB, 27.6% Ks (in 510 PAs)
2017 MLB: 8-for-42 (.190), 2 HR, 2 SB, 4 BB, 18 Ks

The A’s top prospect (and the prize of the Josh Donaldson trade) made his MLB debut in June. He didn’t light the world on fire on either side of the ball, but on July 4 he did notch his first walk-off homer.

Barreto began the year hot in Triple-A but then spent much of the summer struggling with strikeouts. He finally turned it back on in August, though, posting a 143 wRC+ in 25 games. Once again his numbers were supported by a massive BABIP despite a concerning strikeout rate, so by no means is this the end of the road for his development, but given the overall circumstances of the Oakland’s season and youth movement this is as good a time as any to take a look at a surging prospect. Over his last seven games, he’s even hotter: 15-for-31, 1 HR, 5 BB, 4 Ks, 5-of-6 SB

The key for Barreto is his bat, which has the chance to be star-level. The big obstacle right now is making contact, but given his young age (21) he’s got plenty of time to solve that riddle. The jury is also still out on his defensive future, and whether it lies at SS or 2B — and as a positive or negative contributor. Again, think of this as more of a free trial for a top youngster rather than an outright graduation like some of the older players we’ve seen (Chapman, Maxwell, Pinder, etc.). If he falls flat then he can always regroup in Nashville next year, just like we saw with the similarly aged Matt Olson.

Sam Moll | LHP

2017 AAA: 3.64 ERA, 54⅓ ip, 47 Ks, 19 BB, 4 HR, 4.16 FIP

The 25-year-old was a 3rd-round draft pick as recently as 2013, and he’s spent the last two seasons in Triple-A — his numbers last year were almost identical, but with an extra run on his ERA. He stands 5’10 and throws a 93-96 mph fastball and a slider (link), and while he hasn’t panned out yet he appears to be a change-of-scenery candidate with some legitimate upside. He’s been scoreless in six games since arriving in Nashville.

Moll has not yet played in the bigs, so he’ll become the eighth Athletic to make his MLB debut this year (Barreto, Brugman, Chapman, Blackburn, Gossett, Brady, Wahl). If he works out, then he could add a much-needed lefty to the bullpen’s depth chart.

Josh Phegley | C

2017 MLB: .205/.246/.346, 56 wRC+, 3 HR, 3.7% BB, 17.2% Ks (in 134 PAs)
AAA rehab: 9-for-29 (.310), 1 HR, 2 BB, 5 Ks

He’s theoretically been the No. 2 catcher on the depth chart for the last three years, as the righty backup behind the primary lefty (first Vogt, now Maxwell). However, injuries have limited him to 73 games over the last two seasons, and when he has played it hasn’t been well (68 wRC+ in 220 PAs). He’s the guy until we hear otherwise, but you have to wonder if this month might be his chance to prove the A’s should pay him a million bucks in arbitration rather than moving on to look for the next hidden gem (whether a scrap-heaper like Dustin Garneau or a free agent like Kurt Suzuki or Welington Castillo).

Jake Smolinski | OF

AAA rehab: 4-for-31 (.129), 1 double, 0 BB, 8 Ks

He began the year on the DL after shoulder surgery, but he’s back just in time to get in a few at-bats. All of his minor league rehab time came as a DH so who knows when or even if we’ll see him take the field defensively this month. I have to admit I’m surprised he’s up so quickly, but I suppose four more games in Triple-A (before Nashville’s season ends) wouldn’t have made that much of a difference.

Like Phegley, Smolinski is facing arbitration this winter. Also like Phegley, he is eminently replaceable even before factoring in that he’s often injured. The A’s are overloaded with right-handed corner OF and/or DH types (Khrush, Pinder Canha, Healy, Renato), and it’s easy to see Smolinski getting forced out this winter unless some part of the equation changes drastically before season’s end.

Where’s Renato?

Patience, my friends. A few more days.

The A’s now have 29 players on the gameday squad, including 14 pitchers and 15 position players. That means a 6-man bench! Also, a second lefty in the pen. We can probably expect to see more call-ups as the month goes on, especially after Nashville’s season ends on Monday.

Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Sean Manaea (L)
Kendall Graveman (R)
Jharel Cotton (R)
Daniel Gossett (R)
Chris Smith (R)

Relievers

Blake Treinen (R)
Chris Hatcher (R)
Santiago Casilla (R)
Ryan Dull (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
Daniel Coulombe (L)
Simon Castro (R)
Sam Moll (L)
Michael Brady (R)
Catchers

Bruce Maxwell (L)
Josh Phegley (R)
Dustin Garneau (R)

Infielders

Matt Olson (L)
Ryon Healy (R)
Jed Lowrie (S)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Matt Joyce (L)
Boog Powell (L)
Chad Pinder (R)
Mark Canha (R)
Jake Smolinski (R)

10-day DL: RHP Paul Blackburn

60-day DL: RHP Andrew Triggs, RHP Bobby Wahl, OF Dustin Fowler