Franklin Barreto, the A's top hitting prospect, came out of the gates on fire this season. The 21-year-old shortstop hit .440 with two home runs in the first week of games this season for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds.
And then, the young middle infielder hit a wall. Barreto dropped down to a .286 batting average as recently as Wednesday after striking out 11 times in six games. But, on Thursday, Barreto put all his tools together for his biggest Triple-A game in his second stint with the Sounds.
Barreto went 4-for-4 with a RBI triple in the Sounds' 4-3 loss to the Oklahoma City Dodgers. He started off with singles to left field in his first two at-bats before smacking an opposite-field triple, his second of the season, and finished with a single through the left side of the infield.
For Barreto's hitting coach, to get him out of his hitting slump it was all about improving his two-strike approach. Barreto took the advice in stride, collecting his first two hits of the night with two strikes.
"A couple of the two-strike hits were balls that were in that he was able to get a barrel to and get some base hits, Sounds hitting coach Eric Martins told MiLB.com. "He took some pitches that were in the dirt and some pitches that were down that he was chasing before."
As Barreto keeps improving, Martins wants him to continue his aggresiveness at the plate while also being a smarter two-strike hitter.
"Barreto's aggressive, but he also has pretty good plate discipline on top of that," Martins said. "He may swing and miss a little bit, but it's something that, with two strikes, it shouldn't bother him too much because of how quick his hands are and how good of a path that he has."
After his big four-hit night, Barreto raised his batting average 54 points from .286 to .340.
When it was announced A's shortstop Marcus Semien would miss the next two months with a right wrist fracture, many believed Oakland would turn to their biggest piece from their Josh Donaldson trade. Instead, GM David Forst wants more time in Triple-A for Barreto's development.
"It's hard to say," Forst responded when asked for a timetable of Barreto's arrival. "It's not science, it's an art, knowing when a player is ready. We've had enough guys come through that they'll tell you when they're ready. You look at what Healy did last year, his performance told us when he's ready. You hope that the player forces your hand and says it's time."
For the time being, the A's are going with a mix of veteran Adam Rosales and prospect Chad Pinder at shortstop.
Around The Horn
-Former Cal star Daulton Jefferies is set for Tommy John surgery. Jefferies pitched in two games for the Stockton Ports in Advanced Single-A this season going 0-0 with a 2.57 ERA. The A's drafted Jefferies No. 37 overall in 2016.
-The A's first-round pick from 2016 in dominating in three appearances for the Ports. A.J. Puk has thrown 12 innings this season and has only allowed one earned run while striking out 20 batters.
-Matt Chapman, the A's top power-hitting prospect, is still out after suffering a wrist injury on a check swing in the second game of the season. He struck out six times in those two games.