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“Franklin, My Dear...” I Don’t Know What To Make Of You

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MLB: Spring Training-Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels
“I hit it thirteen Altuves!!!!”
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

But I do give a damn.

Forgive me if I sound weary, but I spent yesterday at the DMV renewing my driver’s license. It’s a strange process in which if you don’t have an appointment you wait for hours (such as the woman who informed me, at 11:30am, that she had been there since 6:30am), but if you have an appointment, as I did, you waltz right in and only wait 2 hours.

The way DMV logic goes, to renew your license you don’t need to prove you can drive a car or that you understand the rules of the road. You just need to prove you have $35.00 and that you can be herded from one window to another, while hearing every number but yours called, without succumbing to the urge to rock back and forth in the corner while sucking your thumb. Actually I take that back — the four customers I saw rocking in corners were issued licenses once they produced $35.00.

This brings us to Franklin Barreto, because segues are for sissies. If it weren’t for Barreto I would be looking like a pretty shrewd scout right about now, as back when Matt Chapman was striking out at a slightly alarming rate in the minors, I insisted he would be a star in the big leagues and here he is batting .245/.339/.435 (116 wRC+) with gold-glove-level-and-then-some defense that is turning the metrics on their heads. (Try 37 career DRS already in 145 career games.)

I declared my assessment of Matt Olson to be “officially agnostic,” which may sound wishy-washy because it was, but reflected that I felt the best conclusion was that it could really go either way. Watching Olson’s Ruthian August-September of 2017 combined with his disappointing first 6 weeks of 2018, you can make a case that agnostic was the right conclusion — although one should really be more bullish than bearish considering that not only does Olson reliably bring defense, on base skills, and power, but is now batting a more than respectable .250/.335/.466 (122 wRC+) for the season. So in fairness, so far those who have strongly believed in Olson get credit over those who couldn’t commit.

Renato Nuñez has certainly lived up, or should I say down, to my insistence that he would never amount to anything. Now DFA’d by two teams (Oakland, Texas) this year, the clanky-gloved DH has a career .167/.222/.273 line in the big leagues.

And then there’s Barreto. I tagged Barreto and Chapman as the two top prospects I thought would thrive in the big leagues and the one thing Barreto has always had going for him, and still does, is that he is young — now just 4 months removed from his 22nd birthday. Perhaps whichever scout likened Barreto to Jose Altuve needs to cut back on the chocolate martinis, but still how many prospects have enough talent that any scout could be inspired to draw that comparison? There is still a chance Barreto will make that breakthrough any day and become the player I envisioned: a .280/.340/.440 “20-20” player with a sweet stroke to all fields and the ability to impact the game with his feet, bat, and athleticism.

The first problem is that every time I actually watch Barreto play, I like him less. Like clockwork, I will see him swing through fastballs in the strike zone and flail at “chase pitches” like Charlie Brown taking aim at a football. Around the bag at 2B I will see fundamental mistakes and an arm lacking strength or accuracy. Mostly when I watch Barreto play, I long for Joey Wendle — who will never be compared to Altuve but who can actually hit and field.

The second problem is that at AAA, while still youngish for his league Barreto is hardly impressing as he repeats the level. Viscerally it feels like every time I peruse the box score I see “0 for 4 with 2 Ks” but in fact here is what Barreto is doing as a 22 year old repeating AAA: he is batting .238/.341/.450, which is not terrible when you consider that the BB rate and ISO are strong. However, he has struck out 55 times in 172 plate appearances, which is an alarming 32% K rate.

Given his youth and athleticism, I just keep waiting for Barreto to have that “epiphany moment” where he takes a huge step forward and realizes his talent. Yet we heard about his “new 2-strike approach” and what that has yielded is a strikeout roughly every 3 times he comes to the plate.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t beginning to have a few second thoughts about lumping Barreto with Chapman as predicted successes from the A’s core. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still hopeful, just not nearly as confident — especially every time I see him play. Maybe it’s as simple as “He’s still only 22” or maybe it’s as simple as “Hey, a lot of really talented top prospects never figure it out.” I sure hope it’s the first one.

Poll

Which best describes your prediction around Franklin Barreto

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    He’s 22, he’ll figure it out and he’ll make a big league All-Star team
    (145 votes)
  • 37%
    He was never going to be a star, but he’ll be a solid every day player in the big leagues
    (260 votes)
  • 23%
    Always overrated. He’s a big leaguer but not a good one
    (161 votes)
  • 19%
    He is who he is: a mediocre fielder who K’s too much and will never really make it in the big leagues
    (134 votes)
700 votes total Vote Now