Name: Luis Barrera
Height/Weight: 6’0’’, 180
How Acquired: Signed as an international amateur free agent in July 2012.
A five-tool talent, Luis Barrera has impressed against lower level competition. Now that he has graduated to High-A, can Barrera unlock his massive potential?
Aside from Yoenis Cespedes, no Oakland A’s international free agent signing received a higher bonus during the 2012 signing period than Barrera. The outfielder has had a gradual climb through the A’s system since that time.
Barrera’s first two years in the A’s system were fairly forgettable, as he failed to hit above the .200 BA plateau and struggled to stay health. The A’s decided to bring him over to the States in 2015 despite those struggles, and he responded to the challenge. As a 19-year-old, he hit .287 with a .344 OBP in 37 games for the AZL A’s.
In 2016, Barrera finally received an opportunity outside the complex league environment. He began the season in the New York-Penn League with short-season Vermont. Barrera was the Lake Monsters’ best hitter for much of that season, posting a .321/.379/.421 line in 41 games. The A’s sent Barrera to Low-A Beloit on Aug. 5, and he continued to impress in his first taste of full-season ball. In 19 games, he hit .286/.320/.443 in a pitcher’s league.
The A’s sent Barrera back to Beloit to start the 2017 season. He hit well for the Snappers, batting .277/.320/.406. Barrera flashed his speed, collecting seven triples and 13 stolen bases (although he was caught seven times). On July 12, Barrera earned a promotion to High-A Stockton.
Barrera never got on a hot streak with the Ports, although he flashed impressive tools during his 35-game stint in the California League. His overall line of .228/.276/.351 was unimpressive, but Barrera did hit four home runs and he was strong defensively.
The A’s expected that Barrera would struggle some in his first go-around in the Cal League, but they felt there was a lot for Barrera to gain from learning to play at that level.
“It’s another tough jump for him. He’s a younger guy who is very aggressive and has the tools,” A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman said a few weeks after Barrera’s promotion to Stockton. “This level will test him because pitchers are able to do a lot of things differently. He isn’t able to get away with his aggressiveness on the bases or in the outfield as much. He’s learning to have to have a better plan and a better approach. That’s what this level brings. Guys are a little more mature and guys are having to match what is going on around him. Things are taken a little more lightly at a Low-A level. There’s not as much importance in the day-to-day routines. He’s finding that he is having to do those things at this level to be able to compete.”
One of the biggest challenges the 6’0’’, 185-pound outfielder has faced since turning pro is keeping bulk on his lanky frame. Lieppman said Barrera lost 10 pounds during the season, and the A’s are working with him on being able to keep up his conditioning and nutritional habits while he is playing.
Barrera, who turned 22 in November, is an immense talent. The left-hander has a smooth, natural swing that can produce power to the pull-side. He handles the bat well and is one of the top bunters in the A’s system. Barrera has a decent idea of the strike-zone, but he is still learning what pitches within the strike-zone are best to offer at and which ones (before two strikes) are better to let go.
Barrera got pull-happy at times last season, and he also struggled against left-handed pitching, especially with Stockton. Barrera would benefit from developing an opposite-field approach, especially against lefties, to take advantage of his speed.
Video of Barrera BP, courtesy of Bill Seals
He is an above-average runner who puts pressure on the defense when he hits a groundball or a ball into the gaps.
Defensively, Barrera has experience at all three outfield positions, but he projects as a centerfielder or a right fielder thanks to his above-average arm strength. He had 10 outfield assists in 103 games in the outfield last season.
Now that Barrera has had some experience in the California League and the opportunity to play more than 100 games in a season, he should be better positioned to physically make it through the grind of a minor league campaign. Barrera will need to show he can handle facing more advanced pitching to remain on the A’s prospect radar. He is likely to start the season back in Stockton. If all goes according to plan, Barrera could get some time in Double-A by the end of the year.
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