Oakland Athletics: Decision looming on two former prospects

Oakland Athletics (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
Oakland Athletics (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) /

Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo were once top prospects in the Oakland Athletics farm system. However, the team will soon have to make a decision on both.

Not long ago, Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo were expected to be key pieces of the future for the Oakland Athletics.

However, both Barreto and Mateo have not lived up to the expectations that landed them on several top-100 prospect lists. Now, both Athletics prospects are out of options and they are fighting for one of the final Opening Day roster spots.

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Barreto has appeared in each of the last three seasons with the green and gold where he has produced a .189/.220/.378 line across 209 career plate appearances. This includes a 3.3 percent walk rate against a 40.6 percent strikeout rate.

With only 18 career extra-base hits, Barreto does not provide nearly enough power to justify the extremely high strikeout rate.

On the diamond, Barreto is able to occupy both middle infield spots. Though, the defensive metrics are not a fan of his work as he has been worth a combined -5 DRS between shortstop and second base.

Despite ranking as high as the No. 33 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com in 2017, Barreto’s major league performance has yet to live up to the lofty expectations that come with that type of ranking.

Unlike Barreto, Jorge Mateo has not yet made his major-league debut. As a result, the 24-year-old has burned all three options by being on the 40-man roster without having a major-league sample to evaluate.

Mateo has eight minor league seasons under his belt. During this time, he has posted a respectable .267/.325/.422 line with a 7.3 percent walk rate against a 23 percent strikeout rate.

The work in the batter’s box is not what has made Mateo a top prospect. Rather, it is his speed, arm, and versatility. As recently as 2019, MLB.com rated the right-handed bat as the No. 4 prospect in the A’s farm system while noting his speed and versatility.

"“Mateo’s best tool remains his top-of-the-scale speed that has allowed him to wreak havoc on the basepaths… Mateo gets high grades for his defensive work at shortstop, with plus range and a very strong arm, though he still loses focus and can be inconsistent at the premium position.”"

In addition to spending time at shortstop, Mateo has demonstrated rare athleticism with the ability to play second base as well as center field.

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Regardless of his loud tools, the offensive profile lags far behind the speed and defensive profile. This is partly why Mateo has not donned the A’s uniform yet.

Without major-league experience, the Oakland Athletics have a decision to make on Mateo along with Barreto.  Both are out of options, and if they do not make the Opening Day roster, they will be exposed to waivers.

Given their prospect pedigree, there are no assurances either one would clear. This would be a difficult pill to swallow as both are still young and possess a lot of raw talent.

The good news for either one is that the A’s are light on middle infield bench depth. Marcus Semien and Chad Pinder project to see considerable time at shortstop and second base, respectively.

Additionally, Tony Kemp has experience at second base and could serve as a bench option, if he makes the team.

Given Barreto’s struggles at the plate at the major league level and Mateo’s lack of experience above Triple-A, there is a very real possibility that neither will make the team.

With spring training underway, Barreto and Mateo are competing against each other to make the team. Neither one is separating himself from the competition as Barreto is batting .273 with a .769 OPS across 22 at-bats, whereas Mateo is hitting .300 with a .717 OPS in 20 at-bats.

Spring training stats should always be looked at with several grains of salt because Cactus League performances do not always translate to regular-season success.

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For the Athletics, this could be the final stage for both Barreto and Mateo before the team has to make a decision.

The once-promising future for both prospects now is in doubt.