Athletics

How Franklin Barreto has impressed A's in outfield at spring training

How Franklin Barreto has impressed A's in outfield at spring training

What's old is new again for former A's top prospect Franklin Barreto. 

Barreto has played four games in the outfield this spring -- two in center field and two in left -- and as many in the infield. The 23-year-old grew up playing in center, according to MLB.com's Jane Lee, but has spent the entirety of his four years in the A's organization playing shortstop and second base. 

The Venezuelan played outfield in winter ball this year, too, and for good reason. The A's are preparing him for a utility role, and they are happy so far with Barreto's performance in the outfield. 

“You watch the drills and watch him do his work in the outfield, he’s a natural at it,” A's manager Bob Melvin said (via MLB.com). “When you’re that athletic, it gives you some options.”

Barreto's newfound positional versatility will help the A's, a team that craves it in their players. It could help him, too. 

He faces a crowded depth chart in the infield and the outfield. Jurickson Profar and Marcus Semien are ahead of him at second base and shortstop, respectively, while the A's glut of outfielders wouldn't seem to leave much room for him on the 25-man roster. 

[RELATED: How Treinen, Trivino push each other in A's bullpen]

In the meantime, Barreto is trying to stand out. So far, he has, according to Melvin. 

“It’s impressive,” he said. “I think, to an extent, you would expect there to be some trepidation playing the outfield, but there’s absolutely none. As a matter of fact, I think he’s having a really good time with it."

That might not lead to an immediate call-up to the big leagues, but it could lead to one sooner rather than later. 

Pedro Martinez lazily rips Mike Fiers for his role in Astros' scandal

Pedro Martinez lazily rips Mike Fiers for his role in Astros' scandal

Pedro Martinez has joined Jessica Mendoza on the wrong side of history

The Hall of Fame pitcher recently spoke out on A's pitcher Mike Fiers, putting his name next to accusations of the Houston Astros electronically stealing signs in the 2017 season. 

“If he was to do it when he was playing for the Houston Astros, I would say Mike Fiers has guts,” Martinez told WEEI on Saturday. “But to go and do it after you leave the Houston Astros because they don’t have you anymore, that doesn’t show me anything. You’re just a bad teammate.”

A reminder to all: Blaming the whistleblower is the opposite of bold. It's the essence of weakness. 

In a November report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drelich, Fiers -- who joined the A's halfway through the 2018 season -- was the first player to confirm the Astros used technology to steal signs. 

“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers said

Four people with the Astros told The Athletic the team stole signs during home games in real-time with the aid of a camera positioned in the outfield. Fiers was the only one to put his name next to his words. That's bold. That's courage. 

Martinez's issue is with Fiers publicly telling what went on behind the scenes and waiting two years to do so. This isn't a new take, but one which many are now using against Fiers, especially those who played baseball. 

“Whatever happens in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse, and Fiers broke the rules,” Martinez said. “I agree with cleaning up the game. I agree that the fact that the Commissioner is taking a hard hand on this, but at the same time players should not be the ones dropping the whistleblower.

“If you have integrity, you find ways to tell everybody in the clubhouse, ‘Hey, we might get in trouble for this. I don’t want to be part of this.’ You call your GM. You tell him. Or you call anybody you can or MLB or someone and say, ‘I don’t want to be part of this.’ Or you tell the team, ‘Get me out of here, I don’t want to be part of this.’ Then you show me something.

"But if you leave Houston, and most likely you didn’t agree with Houston when you left, and then you go and drop the entire team under the bus, I don’t trust you. I won’t trust you because we did have that rule.”

It's not that simple, though. Fiers said many within the Astros believed other teams already were electronically stealing signs, which made them feel less guilty about doing so. He then told his new teams -- the Detroit Tigers and A's -- in 2018 about what was going on. Fiers never says in The Athletic article if he went to the front office or coaches about the scandal. 

[RELATED: Red Sox star understands why Fiers spoke up about Astros]

Another piece to the puzzle is Fiers struggled in 2017. He went 8-10 with a 5.22 ERA in 29 appearances and was left off the postseason roster. How would it have looked if a struggling player made complaints about his own team and brought forth such serious allegations? Probably not very good. 

Whether it be a scandal like the one the Astros constructed -- and received historic punishments for -- or wrongdoing in general, guilt weighs on you. Just because a person doesn't come forward right away, it doesn't mean they didn't understand the situation was wrong. The gravity of it all can be more understood over time, as well. 

This is a lazy argument that we're sure to hear again. It needs to be put to rest, but don't expect that to happen. 

Baseball America releases new top 10 A's prospects for 2020 MLB season

Baseball America releases new top 10 A's prospects for 2020 MLB season

The A's top three prospects virtually are set in stone. Wherever you look, you likely will see the same three names in the same order: Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk and Sean Murphy. 

That's a pretty talented trio right there. It's the same top three that led off Baseball America's list of top A's prospects going into the 2019 season. The same goes for 2020

Luzardo and Puk are regarded as two of the best left-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball. With a high-90s fastball and nasty changeup, Luzardo has all the ingredients to one day be a perennial Cy Young candidate. Puk's fastball-slider combination has him right up there with Luzardo, too. 

Murphy is expected to make a big impact on the A's this upcoming season, and the catcher is regarded as one of the best defensive prospects in the game. The 25-year-old made his MLB debut last year and hit four homers in limited time, too. 

The real change for the A's, however, is at No. 4. Going into last season, Baseball America had a Heisman Trophy winner as Oakland's fourth-best prospect. That's right, we're talking about Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyle Murray. 

While Murray claims he still believes he can play both sports in a calendar year, and the A's still own his baseball rights, it's highly unlikely the elusive QB ever wears an A's jersey. So, who's the A's new No. 4 prospect? Cal product Daulton Jefferies made a huge leap in the rankings. 

Jefferies, 24, entered 2019 as the A's No. 18 prospect on Baseball America's top-30 team rankings. The low ranking wasn't due to his talent, though. It was all because of injury risks. Jefferies missed a chunk of his junior year at Cal with a shoulder injury and then had Tommy John surgery in late April 2017. 

Prior to the 2019 season, Jefferies had only pitched 20 1/3 innings since being drafted by the A's with the 37th pick overall in 2016. He was healthy last year and showed his potential that always has intrigued front offices. The 6-foot right-hander went 2-2 with a 3.42 ERA and had 93 strikeouts to only five walks in 79 innings pitched between Advanced Class A and Double-A. 

[RELATED: A's Reed hopes to reunite with Florida teammate Puk in '20]

Jefferies is expected to start the season in Triple-A Las Vegas. He throws everything for strikes and sits in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball. The A's will be safe with his workload, but don't be surprised if the former Cal Bear makes it to Oakland this season. 

There's no doubt the A's have one of the best young trios in Luzardo, Puk and Murphy. Don't forget about Daulton, though -- even if he does spell his name wrong.