Since being signed by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Venezuela in July 2012, expectations have been sky-high for shortstop Franklin Barreto. With 49 hits in 147 at-bats through the first half of the 2014 season with the Vancouver Canadians, the 18-year-old has not disappointed.
"He was a guy that we expected big things from out of Spring Training, and I think he has almost exceeded our expectations," Canadians manager John Schneider said.
Not only has Barreto compiled a .333 batting average, which ranks fifth in the Northwest League, but he also finds himself near the top of several other offensive categories. Through the first half of the season, Barreto leads the eight-team league in RBIs (36) and doubles (13) while ranking second in hits (49), runs scored (34) and triples (4).
"He's a guy we know can hit for average, and he's going to hit for some power as well," Schneider said. "He has a lot more room for power in his swing, and for a young kid at 18 years old, he has done some really, really good things with the bat this year."
Barreto has produced consistent success as he continues to play under a cloud of widespread expectations. Signed on July 2, 2012, Barreto agreed to a deal that included a $1.45 million signing bonus.
Rated by Baseball America as the top international prospect in the 2012 Major League Baseball free-agent class, he quickly lived up to his valiant ranking -- playing in 44 games in the Gulf Coast League in 2013 and hitting .299 (52-for-194) with four home runs and 19 RBIs. Half of the hits he collected went for extra bases as the right-hander notched 16 doubles, six triples and four home runs.
Barreto entered the 2014 season as the No. 7 prospect in the Blue Jays organization, and now, having just been named a 2014 Northwest League All-Star, it's clear Barreto has continued to live up to the hype.
"The pressure I feel is simply my own," Barreto said. "I am not concerned with what the writers say about me or how I compare to other players. I simply want to become a Major League Baseball player and feel that if I work as hard as my body and spirit will allow me, then I will reach my dream."
The numbers alone for Barreto are impressive. But for Schneider, the fact that the young infielder is accomplishing these achievements and leading the league in games played with 37, all while being just 18, is icing on a very successful cake.
"He carries himself very well beyond his years. He has played baseball for a long time and kind of has a confidence about him, especially in the batter's box," Schneider said. "For him to be playing against guys who are four, five and six years older than him, I think it speaks volumes to the success he's had so far."
As Barreto attempts to become a valuable piece of the puzzle for the Blue Jays in the future, he is extremely valued by a Vancouver team that aims to win its fourth Northwest League championship in as many seasons. He didn't waste any time showing his worth, starting the year 12-for-21 with two doubles and five RBIs in a five-game series against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. Since the hot start, he has yet to cool off -- Barreto finished the first half of the season with 15 multi-hit games, three of which were four-hit performances. He also accumulated eight games in which he drove in multiple RBIs.
"We've had a handful of guys who did really well in the first half," Schneider said. "You look at the top couple of guys in our order and they've settled into some big roles. Franky is right up there as one of the most important guys in our lineup."
With all of the tools and talent that Barreto possesses, the sky is the limit for the Venezuela native. Where he ends up still remains to be seen, so for now, Barreto is focused on one thing: winning.
"I want to win. I feel like our team has the players to make a championship once again in Vancouver, but right now we have to focus on getting better," Barreto said. "I put my faith in God to help me be the best player I can become."
Arroyo is a rolling: After starting the season just 5-for-31 (.161), Christian Arroyo has found his groove at the plate for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. The 2013 first-round Draft pick has 14 hits in his last 27 at-bats, is currently riding a seven-game hitting streak and has produced seven three-hit games this season. In 30 games, Arroyo is hitting .317 with two home runs and 19 RBIs.
Cone and gone: After playing in 36 games for the Spokane Indians in his second stint with the squad, Zach Cone has once again been promoted to the Class A Hickory Crawdads in the South Atlantic League. In his time with the Indians in 2014, Cone hit just .230 (29-for-126), but his power numbers were in full effect -- he finished with nine doubles, a triple, eight home runs and 26 RBIs.
Winning machine: The Vancouver Canadians wrapped up the first half of the season at 25-13, tied for the best record in the Northwest League. Starting pitcher Miguel Castro was a big reason why -- the 6-foot-5 right-hander leads the league with five wins and ranks fourth in strikeouts (40) over eight starts. He owns a 2.52 ERA, allowing 11 earned runs in 39 1/3 innings, and was rewarded for his success when he was selected to compete for the North Division in the 2014 Northwest League All-Star Game on Aug. 5 in Eugene.