Happy Valentine’s Day, Brewer Nation! We’re just 50 days away from Opening Day which puts us just over seven weeks out. Each time the tens digit rolls over it’s like clearing a little mental hurdle.
So let’s finish our approach to this hurdle by profiling a first-timer to “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers”…
Or should I write “Jhonathan” because the Facebook page for the 24-year-old reliever from Venezuela spells his first name with a “J” and that’s basically how you pronounce it. I digress though.
Barrios was acquired by the Brewers from the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 23, 2015 in exchange for Aramis Ramirez (and cash). At the time, many people wrote things about not being able to expect much in return for a guy who has said he’s going to retire at the end of the season and who, quite frankly, wasn’t playing all that great at the time of the trade.
People found a myriad of ways to bemoan the acquisition.
“He’s only 5’10”.”
“All they got was a Double-A relief pitcher?”
“Who is Yuh-honathan?”
“WHY DIDN’T THEY GET MOAR!!!1!”
But the facts that have come to light once Barrios got a chance are that this guy can pitch. He can also throw as evidenced by his four-seam fastball averaging 96.4 MPH during his time in the big leagues (per Fangraphs). And though in his five games he was primarily a two-pitch pitcher (fastball/change-up), he also lightly sprinkled a slider as well.
The two pitches worked for him during his September call-up though as he put up 6.2 scoreless innings in five appearances, striking out seven and walking exactly zero. It’s obviously a small sample size and is predictive of almost nothing, but as I always say it’s certainly better than getting lit up in a small sample size.
Barrios is going to be in the mix for the Opening Day roster if in the Cactus League he performs even close to how he did last September. That said, he could get squeezed out with the options situation surrounding the other bullpen arms (assuming no one else gets traded).
If the Brewers go with a seven-man bullpen — the norm, though it’s certainly not uncommon to roll with eight at times — they’ll have tough decisions to make. Right now the locks given last year’s performances and current roster considerations are Michael Blazek, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, and Will Smith. Tyler Thornburg & Ariel Peña are both out of options and Zack Jones (Rule 5 pick) either makes the team or needs to be offered back to Minnesota. That leaves worthwhile 2015 contributors like Barrios and David Goforth working at Colorado Springs. New 40-man adds Damien Magnifico and Jacob Barnes should probably start in minors for a bit more seasoning, but what of Junior Guerra (he has options)?
The point is that Barrios could find himself beginning the year in Colorado Springs and if his 53.3% ground ball rate in September translates back down to the minors he’ll be fine there. It’ll also help that he allowed just two home runs in 60.1 combined innings pitched in the minors last year.
Bottom line: Barrios is a useful asset for this team who could prove effective for several years as the complexion of the roster continues to change.
Catch up on BBtJN ’16: