The A’s are loaded with intriguing prospects, but one of the most interesting of the whole bunch is one of the best known: Franklin Barreto.
Barreto is highly touted thanks to his obvious tools - he’s fast, he’s athletic, and his hands are lightening quick. Equally important is his age, and at a tender 21 years of age, Barreto has ample time to figure out his issues.
Oh those pesky issues. What makes Barreto so interesting is a newfound inability to put the ball in play. Outside of those contact issues, Barreto isn’t a perfect prospect. But if he figures out how to put the bat on the ball at an increased rate? He’s a very strong candidate to stick at a premium position with an above average bat. Even with his struggles putting bat on ball in 2017, Barreto still had a solid offensive season in Nashville. Unfortunately, those contact issues likely won’t fly in the bigs. Fortunately, he’s got lots of time to figure them out.
Statistical comps are far from a sure thing, and all baseball players are unique snowflakes with different paths. If players were carbon copies, the game wouldn’t be so interesting and unpredictable. How similar players did before Barreto isn’t necessarily indicative of how Barreto will fair.
Still, statistical comps are fun and can give us clues as to how a player might progress.
Finding a comp for Franklin Barreto
Since the minor leagues are ripe with movement and change, it’s not easy to find relevant players to compare.
For that reason, we’re looking for a few things when finding a comp for Barreto:
- Barreto is a top prospect which is emphasized by his youth. At just 21 years of age, Barreto is more than 5 years younger than the average AAA player (though note the average is inflated by the numerous guys rehabbing or trying to resurrect their careers). We’re looking for a similar prospect in terms of clout and youth, two traits that age encompasses. By nature, anyone spending serious time in AAA at age 21 is a good prospect. For the sake of finding a broader pool, I’ve included anyone 23 years old or younger in AAA.
- For some hitters, an elevated strikeout rate is no big deal. For a Franklin Barreto type, a guy who doesn’t hit the ball out of the yard a ton and relies on hitting for average, it does. Therefore, I won’t include anyone with a ISO above .170 (Barreto has been at .155 in his career).
- Oh yeah, that strikeout rate: looking at anyone with the above characteristics in addition to a K% of 22% or higher in AAA. Barreto’s was actually a fair amount higher at 27.6%, but we’ll cast a wide net.
- I only included players with 300 at bats or more in a AAA season to avoid small samples.
In 2017, Barreto played his age 21 season mostly at AAA Nashville. He hit .290/.339/.456 with a walk rate of 5.3% and a strikeout rate of 27.6%.
And we’re off!
Arismendy Alcantara age 22 season (2014 Iowa Cubs)
366 PAs, .307/.353/.537, 6.8% walk rate, 22.7% strikeout rate
A familiar face to start things off, and unfortunately a fairly strong comp. Alcantara was a similarly ranked prospect, ranking as high as 33rd on Baseball America’s 2014 midseason list.
Things never did pan out for Alcantara, largely due to his inability to hit the ball.
Jonathan Galvez age 22 season (2014 Tuscon Padres)
455 PAs, .278/.342/.385, 7.5% walk rate, 22.9% strikeout rate
In spite of being just 22 in AAA, Galvez was never much of a prospect. He didn’t advance much beyond AAA in part due to struggles with the strike zone. Galvez isn’t a perfect comp since he lacks the pedigree that Barreto possesses, but he is a data point. And not the most positive one.
Colin Moran age 23 season (2016 Fresno Grizzlies)
511 PAs, .259/.329/.368, 9.2% walk rate, 24.3% strikeout rate
Moran’s outcome is still very much up in the air as the only 25 year old made top 100 lists just this year. He’s a different prospect than Barreto in a lot of ways, and lately he’s attempted a swing change to unlock some more power. That’s not something Barreto could necessarily do, but it’s an interesting data point.
Anthony Gose age 21 season (Las Vegas 51s)
448 PAs, .239/.316/.336, 8.5% walk rate, 27% strikeout rate
Now Gose plays a different position than Barreto and is of a different handedness so again, the comp isn’t perfect. It never is.
Gose is now an aspiring pitcher which tells you how the whole make more contact thing went.
Matt Davidson age 23 season (Charlotte Knights)
539 PAs, .199/.283/.362, 9.1% walk rate, 30.4% strikeout rate
Davidson is still trying, but so far, no dice on big league succes.
There are others who put up Barreto like seasons and so far, none of them have really panned out. It’s disheartening if not surprising, as it’s long been known minor league strikeouts
The Barreto difference
Player comps are fun and often instructive, but every player is an individual. History doesn’t look kind, but Barreto could well be the exception. He’s the youngest player on this list, though his strikeout rate is also the worst. His strikeout issues are mostly new and slightly unexpected, as Barreto’s hit tool has long been highly touted. There’s no doubt his lightening quick hands can get to pitches and hit them hard.
The issue seems to be pitch recognition and selection. In his small big league sample, Barreto swung at 39.9% of pitches out of the zone, 10% higher than league average. On pitches in the zone, he swung 7% less than the league average (59.7% vs 66.7%). Walk rate is only a decent proxy for pitch recognition and selection, but Barreto has never done well in that measure either. He just hasn’t quite mastered picking his pitch. He’s offset that with his hit tool, putting a solid amount of balls in play with excellent results.
Barreto absolutely has the tools to succeed in the bigs. He’s got a big question to solve in order to do so.