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MESA, Arizona — His teammates call him ‘Chiquito,’ which means ‘tiny’ in Spanish, but A’s top prospect Franklin Barreto transforms into a giant when he steps into the batter’s box.

Standing at 5-foot-10 according to his player bio, Barreto appears to be a little shorter in person. But the second baseman/shortstop has been putting on a show this spring with his propensity to crush home runs during batting practice, resembling another small-statured second baseman with thunder in his bat — 2017 AL MVP Jose Altuve.

Barreto and Altuve share many of the same qualities. Aside from the unexpected power, Barreto, 22, has shown throughout the minor leagues he possesses the speed to wreak havoc on the bases as well as hit for a high average.

The one skill Altuve excels at that Barreto currently lacks? Plate discipline. Barreto struck out a combined 174 times in 540 at-bats last year in Triple-A and the major leagues. In an effort to reduce that number, Barreto is using spring training to shorten up his leg kick in two-strike counts. It’s a slight mechanical adjustment, but Barreto believes getting the front leg down earlier will afford him the opportunity to see the ball a little longer and find more contact.

“It’s a little strange for me,” Barreto said of the adjustment. “But I’m trying it to see how it goes.”

It’s a skill Triple-A Nashville coach Eric Martins, the man responsible for drafting A’s star Matt Chapman as a scout back in 2014, sees as the final phase left for Barreto to conquer in order to become an elite hitter.

While considering Barreto on the same level as Altuve would be ludicrous at this point, Martins couldn’t help but mention the Astros star when asked for a major league player comparison.

“If you look at the stature, who does he remind you of? Jose Altuve,” Martins said. “To put that on him would be tough, but if it comes, it can be as dynamic as him.

"This kid’s got special abilities. He’s got power. He has the ability to hit it all over the park with some doubles and triples. He can do it all. The only part of his development that I think is left is tightening up his strike zone.”

Swinging at bad pitches is not an easy habit to change, especially for a young hitter. But Martins believes there’s something different about Barreto.

The hot streak Barreto jumped out to in the first month of the season last year at Triple-A, which saw him hit .333 over 22 games, was described by Martins as “unbelievable” and unlike anything he had ever seen in his three years as a hitting coach in the A’s organization that has seen him work with the likes of Chapman and Matt Olson.

A’s pitcher Paul Blackburn, who was Barreto’s teammate in Nashville at the time, was also left amazed by what Barreto was doing.

“He didn’t miss a barrel. It was incredible to watch,” Blackburn said. “I see him being a guy who can make an impact this season.”

Barreto went on to hit .290 with 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 111 games at Triple-A, but it was that first-month breakout that led Martins to start imagining the Altuve-like impact Barreto could bring to the majors.

“He’s tweaking some things that are gonna try to work for him,” Martins said. “The strikeouts are gonna come. We’re not gonna cut down his strikeouts by 50 percent, but if you can cut them down by 25 or 20 percent, he’s so special that if he just puts the ball in play, he’s gonna beat out some infield hits. That’s where his value is.”

Like Altuve has developed his double-digit home run outputs the past three season, Martins views Barreto as a player who can also easily hit 15-20 home runs in the big leagues once the strikeouts cut down.

In an at-bat during Saturday’s game against the Padres, Barreto showed off that sneaky power by blasting a home run off Tyson Ross, a home run Martins said was a product of the new approach.

“The thing with Altuve is he can hit any pitch and put the ball in play. If we can get Barreto to do that, sky’s the limit. If we get anything close to Altuve, we’ll take it.”

It’s not the first time Barreto has heard the comparison before, and if you look deeper, they’ve had similar roads to the big leagues.

They both signed with MLB teams at the age of 16, Barreto with the Blue Jays as a shortstop/center fielder in 2012 and Altuve with the Astros as a second baseman in 2007.

The difference is Barreto actually arrived with more hype surrounding his signing than Altuve’s. Barreto was the top-ranked international prospect by Baseball America in 2012, while Altuve signed as an undrafted free agent with a signing bonus around $15,000. But Altuve quickly rose through the minors for a big league call up in 2011 at 21, the same age Barreto was last year when he was called up.

Barreto said he often watches tape on his fellow Venezuelan countryman in order to pick up on things he can potentially add to his game, both on offense and defense.

“I watch videos of him and try to study the little things that he does,” Barreto said. “He’s the best hitter in the game right now.”

While Barreto’s bat is ready to make an impact in the majors, he appears to be blocked in Oakland by second baseman Jed Lowrie and shortstop Marcus Semien.

A’s general manager David Forst acknowledged it would be best to get Barreto everyday at-bats at Triple-A, but also said getting the chance to finish last season in the big leagues will have him well-prepared should either of the middle infield spots open up.

“He’s always had age on his side and he still does,” Forst said. “I think with Semien and Lowrie there, something would have to happen for him to be with us. It was great he got his feet wet and we’ve all seen the ability there. With a kid that age, it’s all about consistency. Doing it on every at-bat.”

In the meantime, Barreto is doing his best to make the team’s decision on whether he will start off in the big leagues as tough as possible. He is feeling more confident in camp this time around because of the new approach at the plate, and ready to test it out during the regular season in the majors whenever that time may come.

“I’ve been learning the game a lot more and this year I came into the spring really prepared,” Barreto said. “I feel really good. I just need the opportunity.

”For as long as Martins has Barreto as a pupil over in Nashville, he will continue to use Altuve as an example as he works with the young infielder looking to set him up for that Altuve-like impact in the big leagues.

“I tell him to strive to be like him,” Martins said. “That’s who you want to say he could be. It’s not a bad guy to look up to.”

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