MESA, Ariz.—The Athletics’ trade of Josh Donaldson left fans anguished.
Oakland dealt him to the Blue Jays for a package of young players, and Donaldson responded by winning the American League MVP award in 2015.
The A’s, meanwhile, fell to last place.
A year later, one of those prospects, shortstop Franklin Barreto, is emerging.
The organization was not impressed when the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Barreto reported to spring training out of shape in 2015. That stood in stark contrast to the player who arrived in excellent condition in 2016.
The 20-year-old Venezuelan still put together a strong first season with Oakland. Playing at high Class A Stockton, he hit .387/.383/.642 in the second half after returning from a wrist injury, which may well have been the beginning of Barreto’s maturation.
“He came down this year full of confidence and with a mindset that he belongs,” farm director Keith Lieppman said. “This is a major change in a year.”
Barreto spent much of the spring working intently with infield coach Ron Washington, an innovator at defensive development, and Lieppman says the improvement is evident. After committing 34 errors in 90 games last year, there were significant concerns Barreto could not remain at the position.
He originally signed as an outfielder with the Blue Jays in 2012 and played mostly center field in the Venezuelan League last winter. Barreto would clearly be more valuable if he can remain in the middle infield.
“He’s certainly athletic enough,” Lieppman said. “He just needs to refine the little things to find out if he can put them in play and see if he can do it.”
Barreto’s bat is what could make him a special prospect. He is a solid line-drive hitter with the potential for average power. “He has great hands, strong hands,” Lieppman said.
• Third baseman Matt Chapman made a huge impression at big league camp, showing both power and defensive prowess. He is ticketed to join Barreto at Double-A Midland.
• A highlight of spring training came with the annual awards ceremony. Midland players were presented with their rings for winning the Texas League title, and shortstop Chad Pinder and righthanded reliever Ryan Dull were honored as the outstanding players for 2015.