Barreto was signed out of Venezuela for $2 million on July 2 of last year. He was considered by many to be the top international player available last year, and had an impressive international resume before turing pro. Baseball America's Ben Badler observed:
There are few amateurs who have ever had Barreto's extensive track record of dominance representing Venezuela during international competitions. Barreto has played in international tournaments since he was 10 in 2006. He was the MVP at the Pan American 12-and-under tournament in September 2008, then later that month led Venezuela to another title by winning the Criollitos de America title en route to being named the 2008 athlete of the year by the Corporacion Criolltos of Venezuela. He won another MVP in July 2010 at the 14-and-under Pan American championship, then last August starred at the 16-and-under World Championship, where he he .515/.568/.978 in 33 at-bats, tied for the tournament lead with three homers (including two against Team USA) and led the tournament with eight steals in eight tries.
Just 17, Barreto began his pro career with the GCL Blue Jays this spring. In 194 at bats over 44 games, he hit .299/.368./.529. There have been considerable concerns about his arm and footwork at Short Stop, and many feel that his future lies in centrefield. His 19 errors in the GCL seem to back this concern up. I asked Baseball Prospectus' Chris King, who has seen a lot of Barreto this summer, if he was ready for the promotion.
It's easy to picture the dimunitive (5'9") Venezuelan traipsing behind the 6'1" Kentuckian throughout the airport. And it appears that Barreto, who did spend some time in Florida for Instructs last fall, hasn't had time to pick up much of the language yet.
According to Tim Brown of Yahoo, Barreto hails from Petare, a city near Caracas, which is among the poorest areas of the nation. Barreto grew up in those conditions. When Brown asked if his father played ball, Barreto responded:
His father, Barreto said, had played baseball as a young man. He shrugged, implying his father had to stop there, for whatever reason, and that they’d both wished otherwise.
Barreto has an open batting stance. He has a foot in the bucket, not to the same extent as former Jay Tony Batista. A stance like Barreto's would make him susceptible to being jammed with inside fastballs, but he appears to have quick enough hands to keep from getting tied up.
In his brief time with Bluefield, he's hitting .357, and hit a walk-off single in a come-from-behind win.
We were a little surprised by Barreto's call-up. He is the 2nd youngest player in the Appy League (he wouldn't be eligible for the MLB draft until next June), and many organizations prefer to give their Latin prospects a full season in the GCL, in order to get acclimated to life in America.
On the other hand, the Jays have shown that they like to elevate prospects at the lower levels late in the season, particularly if the team they're headed to is in a playoff position (Bluefield clinched yesterday). King suggests that he's ready to handle the higher calibre of pitching, and maybe despite his youth, the Jays feel that he's ready for the challenge of playing and living in West Virginia for a couple of weeks.