Athletics

Franklin Barreto replaces Jurickson Profar as main A's second baseman

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Franklin Barreto replaces Jurickson Profar as main A's second baseman

OAKLAND -- Franklin Barreto experienced a tiny taste of the big leagues the last couple of years, but he has never been afforded a chance to find any rhythm with consistent playing time. That's about to change.

Barreto will take over as the A's primary second baseman moving forward, leaving Jurickson Profar's status up in the air.

"We talked with the front office when we brought him up that we need to give (Barreto) some consistent at-bats," A's manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday. "He's never really had that here at the big league level. That doesn't mean that Jurickson's not going to play at all. You may see Jurickson take some ground balls at some different positions, maybe even take some in the outfield to create some versatility for him and different ways to get him in the lineup. But Frankie is going to probably get the majority of time at second."

The A's called Barreto up from Triple-A Las Vegas on Sunday and he has started every game since then. The 23-year-old went 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored in Oakland's 8-6 win over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.

"I'm obviously really happy about (the opportunity)," Barreto told NBC Sports California through interpreter Fernando Alcalá. "I've been anxious to get back up here, so now that I'm here, I really want to help the team win."

Barreto has long been considered the A's top prospect, earning MLB Pipeline's top ranking from 2015 through 17. He has shown flashes of his potential the past two seasons, totaling seven home runs and 14 extra-base hits in 57 MLB games.

"He brings a lot of power for a little guy," Melvin said. "He gives you some speed. He does a lot of things to help you win games. He's been a big prospect for us for a reason."

Barreto actually got off to a slow start this season in Triple-A, but recently, he has caught fire. The Venezuela native was named the Pacific Coast League's Player of the Month for June, slashing a ridiculous .387/.402/.802 with nine home runs, 13 doubles, and 32 RBI.

Barreto credits an adjustment to his batting stance for the improvement.

"The hitting coach and I were watching video and I noticed that last year, I was a little bit more open," he said. "But early in the season, since I still felt comfortable with the stance that I had, I didn't notice it. ... I was seeing the ball well even before the switch, but opening it up allowed me to take a better swing and see the ball and make better contact."

It remains to be seen if Profar will get another chance to regain favor with the A's. The 26-year-old has struggled in his first year in Oakland, slashing just .215/.277/.377. He has also been shaky defensively, committing 10 errors already, four more than any other second baseman in the majors.

[RELATED: Hermann makes A's history in grand style with one swing]

For those reasons, the job now belongs to Barreto, at least for the time being.

"I think this is a great opportunity for him, for the first time in the big leagues, to get some consistent at-bats," Melvin said. "After that, once you get him out there, it's all about production and hitting your way and playing your way to staying in the lineup, and I know he's looking forward to that opportunity."

MLB rumors: Russell Martin draws free-agent interest from A’s, others

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MLB rumors: Russell Martin draws free-agent interest from A’s, others

The A's are searching high and low for a veteran catcher.

Oakland struck on in their pursuit of Matt Wieters, and now they've reportedly turned their attention to Russell Martin.

MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported on Thursday that the A's are among several teams that have "checked in on" the veteran catcher.

Martin, 37, spent the 2019 season with the Dodgers, his original organization. In 83 games, he slashed .200/.337/.330 with five doubles, six homers and 20 RBI.

The A's have three catchers on the 40-man roster -- Sean Murphy, Austin Allen and Jonah Heim -- and all three of them are rookies.

Murphy is expected to the opening day starter and will get a majority of the playing time. But it still makes sense for the A's to sign a veteran catcher to mentor the prized prospect.

[RELATED: A's have plenty of outfield options]

As Heyman points out, Martin is not ready to sign with a team right now. But when he is, the A's should make a strong push to add him to the roster.

A's have plenty of outfield options should Stephen Piscotty miss time

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A's have plenty of outfield options should Stephen Piscotty miss time

The A's will march through spring training without Stephen Piscotty, who was formally shut down Friday with an intercostal strain. Manager Bob Melvin said the veteran would be out indefinitely, though he didn’t rule out a return by Opening Day.

Piscotty starting that March 26 home game is far from certain, but him missing a few games to start the season isn’t a massive blow.

Why? The A's have tons of outfield depth.

Ramon Laureano and Mark Cahna would take up two spots, with Robbie Grossman able to fill in well and play consistently. He played 138 games for the A's last year and Oakland re-signed him in free agency. Chad Pinder can play every position and is comfortable working from the grass. Second baseman Tony Kemp has experience out there, too.

P.S. All those guys can field. All of those guys can hit.

Plan A obviously is having Piscotty play soon and play a ton. He’s a quality all-around player and valued clubhouse presence. There are plenty of alternatives.

“[The outfield] looked really crowded, and that’s a good problem to have,” Melvin told reporters on Friday, via MLB.com. “But the more you do this, the more you realize how important depth is. Not only with pitching, but with position players. It’s very rare now that you get through spring training healthy.

"Things have changed a bit in how you deal with spring training. It’s about getting off the field healthy. We do have some depth there.”

[RELATED: Why Melvin is confident Khrush will bounce back this season]

That will allow the A’s to be patient with a regular starter. They can let him get fully healed and ramp up accordingly, into the regular season if necessary. If he starts on the injured list -- that’s a massive “if” at this stage -- it could open a roster spot for an outfield prospect.

At the very least it means more spring training at-bats for promising players in major league camp like Seth Brown, who has some power, or Dustin Fowler, who's trying to reclaim an MLB gig. Skye Bolt is another option.

The A’s could choose to replace Piscotty with another outfielder in a straight position swap, or they could evaluate prospects from other positions considering how much outfield depth already is set to make the club.