Today we look at two super young shortstops oozing with tools and potential, both already on their second organization. Gleyber Torres came to the Bronx as part of the huge haul for a half season of Aroldis Chapman. Franklin Barreto was also acquired via trade, and has hopes of establishing himself as “Franklin Barreto” as opposed to “Not Josh Donaldson.” It’s Tale of the Tape time, let’s do this!
Outside of his first 15 games for Rookie League Bluefield, Barreto has hit at least .280 every step of the way, culminating with a .281 average this season in Double-A. He’s a free swinger, no doubt, but his ability to make contact (17.8 percent strikeout rate last season), allows for his aggression to be a strength at the plate. His short stretch (fine it was only 18 plate appearances, but still) in Triple-A to close the season yielded a .353 average, and if Julio Urias weren’t such a freak, Barreto would have done so as the youngest player in the league. This gentleman can hit.
Torres is coming off of his least productive stint as a pro, hitting only .254 this season for the Tampa Yankees. There are several reasons not to be terribly concerned with this number, however. First, it came from a small sample, post trade but likely pre acclimation. Next, he still produced a .279 TAv and struck out in less than 17 percent of his plate appearances. Finally, Torres spent the entire 2016 campaign as one of the youngest players at High-A. While he got off to a slow start in the Yankee organization, he rebounded by hitting .403 in the Arizona Fall League, which in the words of that dude that created Seinfeld is prettay, prettay, prettay good. Advantage: Barreto
As mentioned above, Barreto is a bit of a free swinger. He’s not quite a Rougned Odor type free swinger, but he’s at least a Matt Kemp type free swinger. His 7.1 percent walk rate last season in Double-A definitely wasn’t great, but it was also a step in the right direction when compared to the ugly 4.1 percent rate he maintained in 2015. Barreto will likely hit enough to keep him from having truly awful OBPs, but it would be nice if he continued the forward trajectory in the patience department.
Torres has a pretty good idea at the plate, especially for a kid that just turned 20 years old. He is coming off of a season in which he drew free passes in 10.6 percent of his plate appearances, and he carries a career .354 OBP. His contact skills and continuously improving hit tool should help supplement the walks and establish Torres as an easy OBP asset. Advantage: Torres
Barreto went deep 11 times in 2016, following up on his 13 homer output from the previous season. He’s not really known as a power prospect, but the double-digit home run totals from the previous two seasons are definitely promising. Perhaps the biggest obstacle for Barreto’s barrage (yes, I knew I’d get to work that in eventually) might be his future home park. Oakland has the third worst park for right-handed power in all of baseball, which probably isn’t the best place for a guy with Barreto’s power profile. It’s easy to see him hitting into the teens, homer-wise, but I wouldn’t expect much more.
Torres hit five home runs, combined, in his first two seasons as a pro. Last year, he downed some spinach (or whatever the 2017 version of this reference would be) and launched 11 dingers during the regular season. He added three more during the Arizona Fall League. Sure the AFL homers don’t really count, but whatever. Ultimately Torres also probably settles somewhere in the 12-15 homer range, but if you squint, you might be able to see a season or two where he sneaks into the 20s. In this quest, he will be aided by Yankee Stadium, which last season played as the best park for right-handed power. Advantage: Torres
This one is tough because I’m having a hard enough time trying to recall the A’s lineup for this season, let alone predict who will be on the team when Barreto is ready for the call. He’s going to be a solid offensive contributor, so the counting stats will likely be there. In addition, Barreto clearly has a leg up here, as far as proximity and timeline is concerned.
If Torres continues to progress, his superior OBP skills should make him a definite asset, at least in the runs category. While Barreto is closer, the Yankees always seem to remain competent somehow, even in the down years. It’s easy to imagine the team having an explosive offense by the time Torres is called up, especially with 2018 free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado buoying the lineup (just kidding, the rest of baseball, just kidding). In the short term, however, it’s advantage Barreto. Advantage: Torres
Barreto swiped 30 bases last season. His 63.8 percent success rate definitely left something to be desired, but he’s still a strong bet to remain in the double digit range moving forward. Seasons of 20-plus steals are reasonably in his future.
Torres steals bases, but he doesn’t seem particularly good at it. Thus far in his career, he’s stolen 53 bases, and has been thrown out 34 times. While Barreto’s 2016 success rate is in that ballpark, it was done against a much higher level of competition, which inspires a little more confidence moving forward. Advantage: Barreto
Injury/Playing Time Risk
Neither one of these guys has extensive injury history that should worry you moving forward, so this one is all about weighing proximity and the likelihood of staying at the position. After getting a cup of coffee in Nashville to close the year, Barreto is probably going to start the season in Triple-A. He was added to the 40-man roster over the winter by the club. As far as his future as the A’s shortstop is concerned, his main competition would be incumbent Marcus Semien, who has never been known as a defensive wizard. That said, Barreto won’t draw any Omar Vizquel comparisons himself, as there are already rumblings that his future could be to the right or the left of his present.
Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman has already stated this winter that Torres would likely begin the year in Double-A. It will be a great test for Torres, and will definitely shed some light on how quickly the 20-year-old can move through the system. However reports indicate that he is even less likely to stick at shortstop than Barreto, and the Yankees already have a young-ish option that is very solid defensively in Didi Gregorius. Pair the distance and the position and this one feels obvious. Advantage: Barreto
Fresh off of his AFL MVP, Torres was one of the hot names, prospect wise, heading into the offseason. To be honest, I fully expected him to be the pick here. Torres is a stud, and it’s easy to dream on him continuing his ascent and even adding a bit more pop to the profile. That said, Barreto is also a stud. He’s less than a year older than Torres and has already tasted Triple-A while posting comparable or superior numbers along the way. Torres could still be a star, but Barreto has that in the cards as well, and he can start helping as early as this season.
And the winner is… Franklin Barreto.