(Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium - Vancouver, B.C.) - There is a certain irony for fans of the Vancouver Canadians who just a few years back would watch our boys grow to become future Oakland Athletics and today watch as Franklin Barreto tries to accomplish the same feat. Confused? Let me explain...
From 2000 through to 2010, the Vancouver Canadians parent club was the Oakland Athletics. It was only in 2011 that the C's chose to go in a different direction and pair up with the Blue Jays. In the crazy world of baseball however, wouldn't you know that just a few years after the swap -- our two organizations cross paths once again.
A few seasons after the swap, just as we began to get used to C's becoming Jays, a trade saw Toronto grab future American League MVP Josh Donaldson then of the Oakland A's, in exchange for former C's shortstop Franklin Barreto among a handful of other players including Brett Lawrie. At the time the trade was considered a steal by the Blue Jays and then General Manager Alex Anthopoulos.
Fast forward to this spring however, and suddenly Barreto is the A's top prospect and forcing the Oakland A's hands at just 21 years of age to get "the call" as the native of Venezuela is hitting .353 (41-for-116) and making a case at Triple-A Nashville that now is the time to bring him up toward the bright lights of the Major Leagues.
BEFORE THE TRADE:
When the Toronto Blue Jays signed Franklin Barreto, at the tender age of 17, the club knew they had a star in the making. Developed physically perhaps more than most teenagers, Barreto had a knack for putting the barrel of the bat right smack in the center of most pitches that came within the strike zone. Here in Vancouver (2014), Barreto blew up the record books setting new standards in hits (90), doubles (23), RBI (61) and runs (65). His 29 stolen bases that year would have also set a new franchise mark had it not been for the speedy Roemon Fields who managed an eye-popping 48.
Barreto was named Canadians MVP that season and at just 18 years old, Baseball America suddenly pegged him as one of the Blue Jays can't miss prospects.
Fast forward to the off-season and suddenly Toronto was in the news for pulling off one of the biggest and best deals in franchise history when they landed 3B Josh Donaldson in exchange for a handful of Blue Jays prospects and 3B Brett Lawrie. Lawrie was the centerpiece of the deal coming back to Oakland in exchange for Donaldson, but those who had seen Barreto raised their collective eyebrows when they saw one of the throw-ins of the deal was the teenager from Caracas that to this point had obliterated the lower levels of the Minor Leagues.
The irony continued for Canadians fans as Barreto's first team within the Oakland A's system was the Stockton Ports of the California League, led by former Vancouver manager Rick Magnante. The Ports manager had recently become the Vancouver Canadians longest serving manager in franchise history before ownership decided to cut ties with Oakland.
Magnante would watch as Barreto battled a handful of injuries and scuffle -- but still knew the A's had snuck away with a true blue chip prospect even in the little time they spent together. Barreto would hit .302 in 90 games in the Cal League before sliding into second base head first injuring his wrist, and ending his season.
Some wondered what Barreto would look like the following season after the extended break but it was business as usual as he hit .281-10-50 in 119 games at Double-A Midland and .353 in a handful of games at Triple-A Nashville.
Now the baseball insiders were foaming at the mouth to proclaim Barreto as the next big thing within the A's organization with many thinking if he didn't break camp in 2017 with the A's that it was just a matter of time until they would bring him up to join the American League West bottom feeder. But, the A's management was quick to snuff out the overbearing expectations of the now 21 year old Barreto by saying they "were in no rush" to bring Barreto up. Some diagnosed that statement made by Oakland's Billy Beane as mere window dressing to take the pressure off both Barreto and the pending decision.
But here's the beautiful problem the A's are facing - Barreto in 29 games this season at Triple-A Nashville is hitting .353 with four home runs and 16 RBI. He projected to hit 26 home runs and tally 82 RBI on his current pace and that just doesn't belong in the Pacific Coast League, something the A's completely understand.
LOGJAM UP ABOVE:
One of the troubles Barreto faces is that he looks up to the Oakland main roster and sees a handful of middle infielders that the A's aren't ready to move aside for the future star, at least not yet. Despite a few early season injuries the A's still held off on bringing Barreto up despite the constant head scratching of the Bay Area media.
But you can't deny a guy hitting .353 and whether the A's have a spot for him or not, every line-up has room for a guy that is seeing the ball as well as Barreto is right now.
Will he play second base? Shortstop? Oakland manager Bob Melvin who saw him in the spring thinks he can play either and that he should find his way into the gold and green of the Athletics before the season ends. Barreto is hitting to make that decision come sooner rather than later as he reminds the Toronto Blue Jays of what got away in the deal for Donaldson.
Make no mistake -- the Blue Jays got the best of that deal back in 2014. Donaldson has been the straw that has stirred the Blue Jays for the past three seasons including two trips to the playoffs -- something few think Brett Lawrie could have spear-headed. That said, could Barreto be a reminder of yet another prospect that slipped through the Blue Jays grasp? Canadians fans make collective cover their eyes, yet likely peek through the fingers remembering how wonderful it was to watch him blossom here in Vancouver.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.