He doesn’t turn 18 until later this month but an impressive professional debut in 2013 has shortstop Franklin Barreto knocking on the door of becoming one of the Toronto Blue Jays top five prospects.Name: Franklin Barreto
Date of Birth: 2/27/1996
Acquired: Signed as an International Free Agent in July 2012 ($1,450,000 USD)
Height/Weight: 5’9″/174 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Previously ranked #13 on 2013 Jays Journal Top Prospects
- Ranked as Blue Jays #5 prospect by Baseball America
- Ranked as Blue Jays #7 prospect by Baseball Prospectus
- Ranked as Blue Jays #11 prospect by FanGraphs
- Ranked as #1 International Free Agent by Baseball America (July 2012)
- Named Blue Jays Organizational All-Star by MiLB.com
- Named Blue Jays Webster Award Winner – Team MVP (rookie)
Stats and Analysis:
Barreto was named by Ben Badler of Baseball America as the top-ranked international prospect in the July 2, 2012 class and was held in high regard before he could even officially put on a Blue Jays uniform. After he had dominated in Venezuela as a young teenager, Barreto had a solid start to his professional career during fall instructional league and spring training before taking the Gulf Coast League by storm in 2013.
As a 17-year-old he quickly proved to be too good for the low-rookie GCL and in 44 games he had 52 hits with exactly half of them going for extra bases. It was an impressive display of power and contact for the young shortstop who at least one member of the Jays’ organization called “freakishly strong”.
His ISO of .230 led the GCL and his wOBA of .420 and wRC+ of 162 were both fourth best in the league. His BABIP was on the high side at .375 but that tends to happen when you are smashing baseballs off the wall on a consistent basis.
His strikeout and walk rates weren’t spectacular at 21.6% and 6.7% but that’s about the only criticism you could level about Barreto’s strong season and considering how he hit the ball they should be manageable peripherals going forward. And keep in mind that every single pitcher Barreto faced in the GCL last year was older than him.
He was effective on the basepaths and had 10 stolen bases in 14 attempts. He also legged out six triples, which helped give him a speed score of 8.1. I’ll agree the Spd metric isn’t great but provides a nice snapshot of his impressive running ability.
Barreto moved up to Bluefield to finish the year and faced a bit more resistance in the advanced rookie Appalachian League. It was a small sample size of only 58 plate appearances and he managed only 11 hits in those 15 game however more than half of them went for extra bases.
Video Credit: Prospect D2J www.MLBProspectPortal.com
Barreto sets up with a very narrow, slightly open stance and rests the bat horizontally on his shoulders. He starts his swing with a big leg kick that is nearly vertical before he strides forward to drive his momentum through the ball. This helps explain how he is able to generate so much power despite standing only 5’9. He waggles the bat slightly but keeps his swing path compact and compliments the short, powerful stroke with very good bat speed and extremely quick hands.
Barreto is an excellent athlete and is considered to have plus (60 grade) or probably more accurately plus-plus (70 grade) speed. He might lose a step as he continues to gets older and/or fills out but for now outside of D.J. Davis he’s one of the best athletes in the Jays’ system. Kiley McDaniel timed him at 3.75 seconds on a bunt attempt to first base in instructional league in 2012, which is a shade better than Davis’ best known timed run. The ridiculous athleticism expands his potentially landing spots to second base or center field if he’s unable to stick around at short.
Evaluators are a bit all over the place when it comes to Barreto’s hit tool but most see it as a plus projection. Marc Hulet at FanGraphs made note of his “strong wrists, forearms and bat speed” and his compact, line drive swing should make for lots of consistent contact going forward. Hulet also says although he is aggressive at the plate his approach is “advanced” for his age. He will chase at times and occasionally loses balance with his narrow stance but excellent hand-eye coordination and natural bat-to-ball ability makes him a weapon at the plate.
His power is developing but is already gap-to-gap with the occasional hard hit ball leaving the park. However this category is where many struggle to tag anything better than an average projection for Barreto due to his size (5’9/174lbs). It’s tough to determine how fully developed Barreto is physically but it’s unlikely he hits a growth spurt in his late teens. Most feel that Barreto’s power will be average but from a premium up-the-middle position that’s a ceiling most teams would be more than okay with.
Most evaluators tend to agree that long-term it’s unlikely Barreto sticks at short but the Blue Jays will give him every opportunity to stay at the game’s most dynamic position. His footwork is questionable and many wonder if his raw speed might play better in center field. His glove is below average at his current position but his general quickness makes McDaniel think, in a self-proclaimed short look, he’s a better fit at second.
Barreto has a very strong arm but according to Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus his arm is “strong but wild”. His arm strength, combined with his speed, makes center field another possible landing spot in the future. However if he can refine his accuracy and clean up his footwork I think there’s a chance he makes it as a shortstop.
Risk, Outlook and ETA
I’ve already gotten into the outlook with Barreto above but basically he looks to have three possible destinations – shortstop, second base or center field. I like to call him a “baseball player”, which I’ve come to realize is my go-to definition for players that I think have well-developed hit tools.
After an extended spring training it’s still unknown where Barreto will land for 2014. My guess is that he’s assigned to Bluefield for a second taste of advanced rookie ball with a late season promotion to Vancouver a possibility. However Alex Anthopoulos told Charlie Caskey he would try to keep Barreto, Dawel Lugo and Richard Urena at different levels so each could play shortstop so maybe Franklin goes to Vancouver when their season opens in June? Honestly I’m not entirely sure how the Jays decide to play this one. I would guess Urena is assigned to the GCL to start but if he plays well he could be forcing a promotion to Bluefield by mid-season, which could lead to Barreto going to the Northwest League if he looks ready (and the Jays are determined to keep them all at short).
The risk for Barreto remains high but probably a bit less so than your average 17-year-old kid with a short-season resume. He’s strong as an ox and fairly developed for a young player, which should serve him well as he continues to move up the ranks. He might end up closer to his floor as a utility infielder than his ceiling as a perennial All-Star but his combination of strength, athleticism and hitting ability could very well make him a Top 100 prospect in the future. Expect to see him in the majors by 2018.