Athletics

Barreto picked for AFL showcase, but what position will he settle at?

Barreto picked for AFL showcase, but what position will he settle at?

Shortstop Franklin Barreto and reliever Sam Bragg will represent the A’s in Saturday’s Fall Stars Game.

The annual game is the marquee event of the five-week Arizona Fall League, which showcases many of the majors’ top prospects. The 20-year-old Barreto, Oakland’s top-rated prospect, is one of four players in the Fall Stars game who are ranked among the top 50 prospects on MLB.com’s latest list. Barreto comes in at No. 42.

He hit .284 with 11 home runs and 53 RBI in a 2016 season spent mostly with Double-A Midland before a late call-up to Triple-A Nashville. Barreto, who gave a strong showing in major league spring camp before the season, is considered a likely candidate for his first major league call-up sometime in 2017.

His manager at Midland, Ryan Christenson — who happens to be the skipper for the East squad in the Fall Stars Game — was impressed with the adjustments Barreto made at the plate throughout the regular season. After hitting .236 in the first half, the Venezuela native improved to .337 during the second half. His OPS jumped from .646 to .883.

[RELATED: Arizona Fall League roundup: Seven A's in action]

“I think the thing that was most impressive, he’s been able to (make adjustments) at such a young age,” Christenson said. “You see how his at-bats change the more disciplined he is in the zone. … He tightened up on his discipline and went berserk in the second half. That was the only difference right there.”

Barreto has been a shortstop throughout his professional career, though at Midland he alternated much of the season with Yairo Munoz, another A’s prospect taking part in the AFL. One would play short, the other second base. Barreto played some center field in winter ball last year but the A’s plan for him to stay in the infield.

Christenson likes Barreto’s development at shortstop but sees him having the ability to play on the right side too.

“He gets a little sloppy with his throwing sometimes. That will get cleaned up,” Christenson said. “It seems he’s going to be a sure-handed player. I think you leave him at shortstop because he’s so young, but if you consider bringing him up to the big leagues and (Marcus) Semien’s there, he looks good at second base too.”

The 23-year-old Bragg, an 18th round draft pick in 2013, has allowed just one earned run and six hits in five AFL appearances. He’s struck out eight and has yet to allow a walk through 9 1/3 innings. The right-hander posted a 4.29 ERA in 36 appearances with Midland in 2016.

The Fall Stars Game begins at 5 p.m. Saturday and will air on the MLB Network.

Many reasons why Bob Melvin was right choice for AL Manager of the Year

Many reasons why Bob Melvin was right choice for AL Manager of the Year

Bob Melvin is Manager of the Year in the American League. Not only recognized by The Sporting News a few weeks back, but now, on the grandest stage by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Melvin clearly deserves this honor on his own merits, but it’s even more impressive that he won what could have been a popularity contest. Considering Alex Cora and the season had by his Boston Red Sox. Or Aaron Boone with the Yankees, who wasn’t even named as a finalist. Both of those first-year skippers run huge payroll teams in huge media markets, and obviously lived up to some expectations.

But for Melvin, he took an emerging 2017 A’s group and raised the bar by 22 wins. That was despite enduring a completely broken-down starting rotation and a franchise that began Opening Day with the lowest payroll in all of baseball.

For reference: No team in the last 30 years of Major League Baseball has started the first game with the lowest payroll and gone on to the playoffs. Until the A's did in 2018.

Knowing some of the inner workings of this team without giving too much away, I can tell you that Melvin has a tremendous grasp on his club, both when they are surging and when they are struggling.

After Melvin won this award, analysts will try to point to tangible things such as in-game decision-making when it comes to quantifying how he managed his group so well. And yes, the A's did lead all of baseball in one-run wins.  

But for me, it’s all that you can’t see that makes Melvin the runaway winner for Manager of the Year.

For example, he facilitated the transition of one-time left fielder Khris Davis into an everyday designated hitter, and saw him hit more homers than ever.

Melvin guided Jed Lowrie through a career season where trade talks and the potential of a young prospect taking over at any minute could not have been higher.

Melvin established a back-end of the bullpen that fashioned Lou Trevino and Blake Trienen into one of the best setup/closer tandems in the game.

And last but not least, Melvin helped evolve players like Matt Olson and Matt Chapman during their first full MLB seasons into bonafide leaders on and off the field.

In short, the A’s are lucky to have Bob Melvin in the dugout. And even luckier that his recent contract extension will keep the Bay Area native at the helm for multiple years past the 2019 season.

A's Bob Melvin stays humble after winning AL Manager of the Year Award

A's Bob Melvin stays humble after winning AL Manager of the Year Award

Winning Manager of the Year honors isn't something Bob Melvin is a stranger to -- he's done it three times.

On Tuesday, the BBWAA announced the 57-year-old would take home the American League award after the Oakland A's finished a 2018 campaign that boasted a 97-65 record with an appearance in the AL Wild Card Game.

Despite being accustomed to the congratulatory wishes, Bo Mel remained humble.

"I said earlier -- it just means I've been around for a while, and I'm getting older to be able to be in a position to get it a third time, but it always feels good," Melvin said on NBC Sports Bay Area's "The Happy Hour," with a smile. "It's always a group effort -- our team this year was incredible."

The A's improved by 22 games from last season, and Melvin made sure credit was served to everyone, from the front office to coaches and, of course, the players.

"We are starting to see the fruits of some of these great trades that were made over the years," Melvin said.

And as far as the low payroll the A's are synonymous with -- don't worry. He addressed that as well.

"To be able to succeed with as low as a payroll as we had just means you have young players who are going to play really well -- and we did," Melvin said with a laugh.

He's not wrong.

Second baseman Jed Lowrie and closer Blake Treinen earned All-Star selections in 2018, and first baseman Matt Olson took home a Gold Glove Award and Matt Chapman earned a Platinum Glove Award for his defensive capabilities on the hot corner.

"To be able to do what they did and look at the Khris Davises and Marcus Semiens and Jed Lowries -- everyone on our team contributed," Melvin said.

Melvin earned 18 first-place votes from the BBWAA, beating out World Series champion manager Alex Cora, who came in second, by 11.