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."
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.