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Eyeball Scout: An Objective Look At Franklin Barreto

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers
“And he lines another one to the catcher!”
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This is to be distinguished from the subjective look at Franklin Barreto, which often looks like:

“OMG, he’s terrible!!!!!!!!”

This is an understandable visceral fan reaction because despite the sudden and temporary proliferation of 3-run HRs that gave Barreto 9 quick RBI, overall the 22 year old top prospect has struggled just a tad.

Before delving into Barreto’s struggles, let’s stand back and gain important perspective. At 22, Barreto has time to continue struggling, figure things out, and still become an impact player, perhaps even a star, in just his mid-20s. If you’re wondering how dramatically a player can rise from floor to ceiling, remember that Josh Donaldson, in 2012, was sent back to AAA after batting .094, on his way to batting .301/.384/.499 in 2013.

However, those feel-goods do not mask that big league pitching has baffled Barreto and then some. Barreto needs to make a key adjustment or two and the questions are: where exactly is the problem and what is the solution?

I would chalk Barreto’s struggles up to two main issues. One is his lack of knowledge of the strike zone — which is kind of a big deal, similar to hiring a sea captain whose main weakness is a poor a sense of direction. Watching Barreto hit, one tends to wonder if it’s a simple language issue, that perhaps he is under the impression that anything inside the rectangular box is a ball and anything outside of it a strike. Perhaps we should be praising his discerning eye to take pitches just on the corner while patiently waiting for a pitch that bounces a foot outside.

It is the second issue I wish to focus on today. Barreto’s swings through a lot of fastballs that are in the strike zone, out over the plate, whiffing with a gorgeous swing that lacks only the ability to actually be where the ball is. My gut take on this is that Barreto’s swing is too long to the ball, that when he believes he is swinging to meet the ball he is in fact late to the party. Perhaps this problem is even related to the first one: when you find yourself late on fastballs, you are more keen to get your swing going and are less capable of reading breaking pitches in time to make good decisions.

Barreto’s swing does not look particularly long, perhaps because he has a quick bat. But watching his at bats, I believe that there is an issue here of being “quick to the ball” that needs adjusting. It would be one thing if the problem were simply one of chasing bad balls, but the fact is Barreto is whiffing on an awful lot of strikes as well. This may be a more quickly fixable issue, and again could even help mitigate some of the recognition issues in the process. When Barreto whacks a fastball to right-center for a single, as he should be able to in his sleep, I will be far more encouraged than I am by the occasional extra-base hit, even long HR, pulled to LF.

If you feel Barreto is being unfairly dumped on these days, keep in mind that he has literally struck out in 43.4% of his 76 plate appearances and this is extreme even for a rookie, even for a 22 year old. (As a 21 year old in 2017, in his big league cups of coffee, he struck out in...remarkably...exactly 43.4% of his 53 plate appearances.)

Something is seriously amiss, but the good news is that serious flaws are sometimes eminently fixable and the better news is that time sits squarely on Barreto’s side. But something has to give and if I’m a betting man it’s an adjustment that makes Barreto quicker to the ball and not prone to whiffing, time after time, on hittable fastballs.

To me what we are seeing on fastballs in the zone is more telling than the more visually aggravating flails at sliders out of the zone. I do not think the problem will “fix itself” but I do believe it is a fixable problem. Let us hope it gets fixed soon and that we can see why Barreto remains a highly rated prospect to this day.

Poll

What do you see as Franklin Barreto’s main batting problem?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    Missing fastballs shows a mechanical swing issue
    (140 votes)
  • 20%
    He’s Bobby Crosby II: can’t recognize a slider
    (119 votes)
  • 17%
    He’s just not that talented: all hype, not a top prospect
    (100 votes)
  • 37%
    There is no problem: He’s 22, just let him play
    (220 votes)
579 votes total Vote Now