New limits on International Free Agency significantly cut down on the bonuses and the volume of money teams could hand out on July 2nd. Despite these regulations, as well as losing their director of international scouting to the White Sox in the 2011 offseason, the Blue Jays were still able to land their number one target and the best available International Free Agent of the 2012 signing period — the system’s #13 prospect.
Name: Franklin Barreto
Date of Birth: March 1996
Acquired: Signed as an International Free Agent in July 2012 ($1,450,000 USD)
High School: N/A
Height/Weight: 5’9”/175 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Ranked by Baseball America as the #1 International Free Agent (July 2012)
- MVP of Pan-American 14U Championship (July 2010)
- MVP of Pan-American 12U tournament (September 2008)
- Corporacion Criolltos Venezuelan Athlete of the Year (2008)
2012 Statistics and Analysis
As with all 16 year old International Free Agents, Barreto’s professional contract was for the 2013 season, so his action with the Blue Jays was limited to the fall instructional league – where he seldom suited up for actual games.
Video (via MLB Advanced Media)
Barreto stands at the plate with a narrow base, and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs – who watched him work in the fall instructs – describes him as having occasional awkwardness to his swing, but attributes that to the ongoing physical development of the 16 year old. Ben Badler of Baseball America saw Barreto extensively in the months leading up to July 2nd, and was impressed with his quick hands and short, compact stroke. Barreto recognizes pitches well, works deep into counts, but avoids the strikeout thanks to his inherent ability to make contact and put the ball in play. His sound approach and quick swing allow him to smash line drives all over the field.
Franklin Barreto is a dual threat offensively, as his bat and raw speed allow him to be a dynamic weapon both at the plate and on the bases. Speed is at a premium for the young Venezuelan, as both Badler at McDaniel threw out 70 grades on the tool. McDaniel timed Barreto at 3.75 seconds to first on a bunt, which is exceptional for a right handed hitter. He will likely lose some speed as he moves into his twenties, but the potential is there for 40 or more stolen bases. The hitting mechanics I detailed above have allowed for scouts to throw 60’s on Barreto’s hit tool potential. His exceptional speed should allow him to maintain a healthy and above average BABIP, and Badler suggests the combination of the two tools could result in a .300 hitter.
The most frequently discussed negative aspect of Barreto’s game is his size – or lack thereof. He stands just 5-foot-9, and despite weighing only 175 pounds, Badler describes him as strong and physically mature already. That isn’t to say he won’t get bigger – he has yet to turn 17 – but the probability of him growing another three or four inches and packing on twenty pounds of muscle is highly doubtful. This has an impact on his power projection, as Barreto will have to rely more on his swing than his body to generate home runs. Even so, both Badler and McDaniel believe he could develop average power due in large part to his line drive tendencies, and any team would happily take 15 to 20 home runs from an up-the-middle position.
Barreto signed as a shortstop, and the Blue Jays will give him every opportunity to maximize his value and stick there, but you can probably count the number of 5-foot-9 starting shortstops in the major leagues on one hand; I’m not going to go through them all, but the only two I can think of are Rafael Furcal and Jimmy Rollins. Working against him even further is what Badler and McDaniel describe as “questionable footwork and defensive actions”. McDaniel has an excellent line regarding his size and the viability of remaining at shortstop; “Given Barreto’s age, there are a lot of things that can go wrong, so you have to assume he isn’t the exception to the rule.”
If he can’t remain at shortstop, second base and center field are the next best options. His 60 arm and 70 speed would allow him to develop into a very good defensive center fielder, and Baseball America has frequently offered up a Shane Victorino comp if such a move occurs. For second base to be a realistic, Barreto would still need to greatly improve his footwork – as well as get used to having his back to the infield when turning a double play – but the overall defensive demands are lower than that of shortstop. If he sticks in the middle infield, Baseball America has tossed a Rafael Furcal (with less defense) comp on his ceiling. For Blue Jays fans, either outcome would be outstanding.
The perfect world projection for Franklin Barreto would be an everyday shortstop who hits at the top of the lineup; first division starter.
2013 Outlook, Risk, and ETA
When a 16 year old is signed on July 2nd, it’s usually just accepted that the best case scenario for a debut is the complex league. Often times they don’t even reach that point, as the DSL – the Dominican Summer League – is viewed as less of a culture shock to the prospect. That may not be the case with Barreto, as it’s already been suggested that he could open the season with Bluefield thanks to his extremely advanced bat skills. Without a doubt it would be a big adjustment, but there’s something to be said for challenging prospects as opposed to letting them rake at a level far too easy for them. The risk attached to a 16 year old with no professional experience is astronomical, and trying to determine even a rough ETA is a futile task at this point. If I had to guess I’d say 2017, but in reality it could be anywhere between 2016 and 2020, if he even makes it to Toronto at all.