Athletics

Franklin Barreto earns trip to Japan with A's after big spring training

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USATSI

Franklin Barreto earns trip to Japan with A's after big spring training

No Oakland A's player has had a better spring than Franklin Barreto.

The 23-year-old is hitting .387/.457/.613 with a home run and four doubles in 31 at-bats. For his efforts, Barreto has been rewarded with a trip to Japan for the A's season-opening series against the Mariners.

That doesn't necessarily mean Barreto will make the A's 25-man roster, but it's a major step in the right direction. Oakland is allowed to take 30 players on the trip to Tokyo and keep 28 players on the roster through the first two games against the Mariners. They must then cut the roster to 25 before their March 28 home opener against the Angels.

A's manager Bob Melvin says he is not the least bit surprised by Barreto's success.

"He's just an opportunity away from doing that all the time," Melvin told reporters. "I remember a couple of years ago, he started out in Triple-A and some of the reports I was getting were: 'There's Triple-A and then there's Franklin Barreto.'

"It's just unfortunate he's in a spot where he's blocked right now. But once he gets an opportunity, it's not going to surprise me if he starts swinging the bat like he is right now."

Barreto's versatility should work in his favor -- he can play second base, shortstop, and the outfield. Left field figures to be his best opportunity, with Jurickson Profar and Marcus Semien locked into the middle infield positions and Ramón Laureano in center field.

Last season, Barreto struggled at the major league level, posting a .233/.253/.493 slash line in 73 at-bats. His biggest issue was the strikeout, a fate he met 29 times, compared to just one walk. But Barreto spent the offseason working on his plate discipline and has made tremendous strides in that area.

[RELATED: Why Jesus Luzardo joining A's rotation increases despite missing Japan trip]

Whether he ends up on the Opening Day roster or not, Barreto is starting to live up to the hype that surrounded him the past few years. As Melvin noted, he's just one opportunity away.

Why A.J. Puk is ahead of Jesus Luzardo on Keith Law's top prospects list

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AP

Why A.J. Puk is ahead of Jesus Luzardo on Keith Law's top prospects list

No matter what outlet you look at, the A's top three prospects usually goes as follows: Pitchers Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk, and then catcher Sean Murphy. 

It's a bit different for The Athletic's Keith Law, though. While Law agrees the trio is Oakland's three best prospects, he doesn't agree with the order of many others. Puk is the A's top prospect at No. 21 in Law's top 100, followed by Luzardo at 26 and Murphy at 36. 

Luzardo's injury history concerns Law. 

"If he can hold up as a starter, he has a higher pure ceiling than teammate A.J. Puk, with better secondaries and probably better present command," Law says. "But he just hasn’t shown a track record of durability or health, even going back to high school, to instill confidence that he can take the ball 30 times." 

A shoulder strain held Luzardo out for the first two months of the season last year. He then dealt with a setback in July when he was diagnosed with a Grade 2 lat strain. 

Puk doesn't have a clean bill of health either. The 6-foot-7 left-hander was threatening to make the Opening Day roster out of spring in 2018, but underwent Tommy John surgery in April and missed the first two months of last season. 

When the two are healthy, however, they're two of the best young southpaws in baseball. Puk, 24, showcased his potential by striking out former NL MVP Kris Bryant on three pitches, highlighted by a nasty slider. 

The lanky lefty made his MLB debut on Aug. 21 last season and appeared in 10 games out of the bullpen. He went 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA and struck out 13 batters in 11 1/3 innings. His command could hurt him, but Law believes Puk will at least be a solid No. 2 in the rotation. 

"He may never have the command to be an ace, but he looks like he’ll miss enough bats with the three primary weapons to be a good No. 2," Law says. 

[RELATED: Why A's no longer tab Puk, Luzardo with prospect label]

Luzardo, 22, needed only 43 innings in the minors last year before making his big league debut on Sept. 11. Once he reached Oakland, Luzardo only allowed two earned runs over 12 innings and notched 16 strikeouts.

But since the Washington Nationals selected him in the third round of the 2016 draft, Luzardo only has averaged slightly over 65 innings pitched per season. 

Even with their age and injury histories, Puk and Luzardo easily could become the A's aces this season in a deep rotation. New ballpark or not, the future is bright in Oakland.

A's Bob Melvin thrilled to have difficult Opening Day starter decision

A's Bob Melvin thrilled to have difficult Opening Day starter decision

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's have a problem: Figuring out who will get the ball on Opening Day.

Yes, it's early to think about, but it's a stellar problem to have. One manager Bob Melvin is not used to.

The obvious smile on his face during the cool morning at Hohokam Stadium showed he likes knowing he has plenty of strong options.

"Literally you can throw it in a hat and pick it out, and I don't anyone would have a problem with it," Melvin told reporters Monday. 

He understands it's not an easy decision, especially this time around.

"There are a lot of things that go into picking your Opening Day starter, so we'll probably wait a little while to give you that news."

As a veteran, Mike Fiers will have a promising case for the job against the Twins on March 26. He didn't get the start over Sean Manaea for the AL Wild Card Game last postseason, but that doesn't signify much. 

Young lefties and A's top prospects A.J. Puk and Jesús Luzardo also will be part of the equation. 

Luzardo, put up sensational numbers in 2019, albeit in a small sample size. He boasted a 1.50 ERA with a 0.667 WHIP and 16 strikeouts in 12 innings, facing just 46 batters.

Puk came out of the bullpen last season as well and will vie for a spot in the starting rotation.

[RELATED: Fiers gets cheers in first appearance since Astros article]

The A's will also get a full season of Frankie Montas, who is coming off of an 80-game PED suspension in 2019. He went 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 2019. 

Chris Bassitt also will be thrown in the mix. He showed his diversity last season, moving to the bullpen after Blake Treinen was out with a back injury.

He could be a sixth-man option or continue a reliever slot, but either way, Melvin will put Bassitt in a position to succeed.

Regardless of who gets the ball on March 26, the A's will not be short on options.

Melvin said his bullpens have been great.