The Situation: As infielder Chad Pinder heads to the disabled list with a hamstring strain, the A’s turn to their top prospect to help fill the void. Just days after calling up Matt Chapman, and as the team looks to retool in the second half of the season, Barreto has an opportunity to make an impression and stick around despite struggling at Triple-A so far this season.
Background: Acquired as one of the key prospects from the Blue Jays in exchange for third baseman Josh Donaldson, Barreto has been highly thought of since signing out of Venezuela for $1.45 million as an amateur. Barreto has moved rapidly through the minor leagues after jumping from short-season ball to High-A between the 2014 and 2015 seasons. He remained on the fast track playing the 2016 season in Double-A and then moving to Triple-A this summer. The 2017 season hasn’t been all sunshine and roses for Barreto as he has struggled for much of the last two months, but the tools continue to flash and he still profiles as an impact big leaguer.
Scouting Report: As a player, Barreto offers a broad set of tools that all play in game situations. He is a natural hitter with the ability to make contact on a variety of pitches while working them from line to line. His approach is aggressive, and while at times he can show some ability to recognize and lay off spin, he will expand his zone when behind in the count. Barreto must continue to develop his approach at the plate to maximize his bat speed and hitting ability. Some scouts remain confident in his ability to become a plus hitter, though more scouts are trending toward an average grade for his hit tool.
Thanks to his developing strength and natural bat speed, Barreto has a chance to grow into average power down the line. He typically hits hard line drives and will need elevate the ball more consistently to realize his home run potential. Barreto’s offensive profile will hinge on his ability to manage his approach; a trait that if developed properly could allow his hit tool and power to play to average levels.
Barreto remains an above-average runner with the ability to steal bases, though the last two years have seen his raw base stealing instincts run into trouble against more polished pitchers and quality defensive catchers at higher levels of the minor leagues. At his peak, Barreto should be able to swipe 10-20 bases per year with a solid success rate.
Defensively, Barreto has the reactions, foot quickness, and hands to stick at shortstop, though he must maintain his quick-twitch athleticism to hold down the position long term. Regardless of his ability to stick at shortstop, Barreto can be an asset at second base or in center field, two positions he’s played at various points throughout his career.
All told, Barreto has a chance to be an impact player with a strong batting average, 15-20 home runs, plenty of doubles, and even some stolen bases. That type of offensive profile will play effectively regardless of Barreto’s long-term defensive home, giving him plenty of margin for error as he tries to settle into a big league role.
Immediate Big-League Future: In all likelihood Barreto goes back to Triple-A once Pinder’s hamstring allows him back on the field, but he is almost certain to be back up in the big leagues down the stretch. Barreto is on the verge of snagging an everyday big league job, but that likely doesn’t happen until September when rosters expand. In the short term, this exposure to Major League arms will almost certainly prove beneficial as Barreto looks to round out his development. —Mark Anderson
Fantasy Impact: Unless you are in a 10-team redraft mixed league, you know who Barreto is: a top prospect in real life whose fantasy potential doesn’t scream superstar but who will be a potential five-category contributor with a top shelf batting average. In AL-only and dynasty leagues Barreto has been locked up for years, but even in most deep mixed leagues Barreto was stashed on draft day or earlier this season. Barreto’s aggressive approach at the dish has led to slow starts at nearly every level of organized ball, so even though he homered in his major league debut, don’t be surprised if Barreto slumps at some point during his initial stay with Oakland.
It is possible that Barreto gets sent to back to Triple-A when Marcus Semien returns from his minor league rehab assignment, but even so Barreto is a must add everywhere apart from the shallowest formats. With Trevor Plouffe and Stephen Vogt no longer in Oakland, there aren’t as many obvious places for Barreto to play unless Oakland moves Khris Davis to the outfield (insert prolonged laughter here). If Barreto hits, the Athletics will find a place for him. Semien has been out since April, so even if the plan is to demote Barreto once Semien is healthy, you could get a month of starts from Barreto. In keeper leagues, the big question surrounding Barreto’s value revolves around whether he sticks at middle infield. His defense could push him into the outfield. Then again, middle infield is not the wasteland it once was in fantasy. A potential issue with Barreto is his speed. He stole 30 bases in 45 attempts in Double-A in 2016; this dropped to four steals in nine attempts this year in Triple-A. – Mike Gianella
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