Athletics

Mookie Betts offers A’s Franklin Barreto advice on moving to outfield

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USATSI

Mookie Betts offers A’s Franklin Barreto advice on moving to outfield

OAKLAND – Mookie Betts has quickly become one of the best outfielders in all of baseball, so it's easy to forget he actually began his career as a second baseman.

That's the path A's prospect Franklin Barreto is looking to follow. Barreto came up as a middle infielder, but Oakland moved him to the outfield this spring, hoping to get him more playing time.

The 23-year-old previously played some outfield in the Venezuelan Winter League in 2015 but had only played second base and shortstop with the A's. Similarly, Betts played a little outfield in high school but came up as a middle infielder in the Red Sox organization.

"It's a lot harder than you think it is," Betts said of moving to the outfield. "It's not just going out there and catching the ball. You've got to be willing to work on the craft."

Betts has done that and then some, becoming a three-time Gold Glove winner in the outfield. Of course, his natural athleticism has played a major factor, but he thinks Barreto can succeed in the outfield too.

"You've just got to be willing to work," Betts said. "No position is easy on a major league field. You just have to understand that and do what it takes to be good."

Teams have always valued defensive versatility, but it seems now more than ever, the ability to play multiple positions is essential. Chad Pinder and Mark Canha have proven that for the A's, playing just about every position on the field.

"Obviously, being able to play multiple positions brings value to you," Betts said. "Being that athlete definitely brings some value but you also want to be really good at a spot too."

[RELATED: How Franklin Barreto impressed A's in the outfield during spring training]

It appeared Barreto might finally get his chance to play consistently for the A's when Matt Olson went down with a hand injury last month. But Oakland brought in Kendrys Morales in a trade with Toronto and optioned Barreto down to Triple-A, where he has spent most of the last two seasons.

For now, Barreto will have to remain patient, while continuing to work on his game in Las Vegas. But sooner or later, he'll get his shot.

Bob Melvin explains why Athletics expectations for 2020 season are sky high

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AP

Bob Melvin explains why Athletics expectations for 2020 season are sky high

MESA, Ariz. – The full Athletics squad reported to spring training on time Monday morning for the preseason’s first full-squad engagement. This group, as assembled, is stacked.

It doesn’t take advanced stats expert to see the 2020 crew is loaded with talent, depth and the superstars required to improve upon back-to-back 97-win seasons. That’s even true in an improved AL West and at a point on the calendar where hope springs eternal.

Bob Melvin was quick to point another reason for extreme optimism this season.

It starts with the Athletics superstars setting a proper tone throughout the organization. Their work ethic, Melvin said, proves contagious.

“We have a bunch of guys like that, whether it’s Matt Olson or Matt Chapman or Marcus Semien, those guys set the tone for how we do things around here,” Melvin said Monday morning. “When you have younger players coming up or new players coming in and they see how our top guys work, they have no choice to work the same way. It’s great when your best players are the hardest workers.”

Those players can absolutely mash. That was clear during the first full-squad workout. Several have been around taking swings in recent days but seeing so many established veterans alternating through the cages around Lew Wolff Training Complex certainly creates belief the Athletics can score with anybody in 2020. Pair that with a legit frontline starting rotation and all-star closer Liam Hendricks and even Melvin can see a clear path to great things this season.

Melvin has been around a long time and managed a lot of good baseball teams. His expectations for this group are sky high. He made that clear in his opening speech to the full squad here in major league camp.

“We always discuss in our first meeting what our goals and expectations are,” Melvin said. “We try to keep those to ourselves but, when you have two seasons with 97 wins and 97 wins and you feel like we have a better team this year, yeah. I think our expectations are pretty high.”

[RELATED: Why A's Mark Canha rightfully was named to MLB.com's All-Underrated Team]

Vegas oddsmakers set the over-under line at 89.5 wins for these Athletics, a significant sum that would put them back in serious contention for a third straight postseason berth. They’ll be gunning for a division title after two straight wild-card berths where the season died out in a one-game playoff.

This largely established group is focused on staying healthy and intact for when the games actually count. That doesn’t mean they’re content to sit back this spring and wait for good times to roll. The grind continues for the entire team as it works to become more versatile.

The Athletics are placing emphasis on situational hitting this spring, maybe going against type for a team that as historically liked walks and big blasts.

That will be important in working through offensive slumps like the A’s experienced near last season’s end.

“You can bludgeon teams at times, but there will be times where we go through offensive droughts as a team,” Melvin said. “The defense is always going to be there, but if we can win some games situationally by getting guys over and getting guys in by putting some focus on that, the team will be better because of it. We’ll continue to emphasize that.”

Why A's Mark Canha rightfully was named to MLB.com's All-Underrated Team

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USATSI

Why A's Mark Canha rightfully was named to MLB.com's All-Underrated Team

Mark Canha, like many A's players, quietly fell under the radar last season. The recently-turned 31-year-old hit a career-high 26 home runs, yet nobody seemed to mention his name. 

One person, at least, did notice. MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince named Canha to his All-Underrated Team going into the 2020 season. Canha is Castrovince's center fielder, though, he likely will find most of his playing time in left field with Ramon Laureano healthy. 

Canha actually played four positions in 2019: 56 games in center, 27 games in right field, 15 games at first base and 10 games in left field. The Cal alum also served as Oakland's DH in 16 games. 

Along with a career-best in homers, Canha posted career-highs along his .273/.396/.517 slash line. He also produced a .913 OPS and 145 OPS+.

Canha's versatility once again will be key for Bob Melvin's squad this season. Melvin has a plethora of outfield options in Canha, Laureano, Stephen Piscotty, Robbie Grossman, Chad Pinder and more. 

[RELATED: Manfred believes Fiers did 'service' revealing Astros scandal]

Perhaps none of the above bring more to the table than Canha, though. 

As the A's look to move past the AL Wild Card Game this year, the San Jose native figures to be a reliable asset yet again.