Aaron Barrett DOB: January 2, 1988
Nicknames: none, but he’s a fake Aussie. So there’s that. (He also shares a name with lead singer of Real Big Fish– Ed.)
From: Evansville, Indiana, then Ole Miss
Position: Middle Reliever Hand: Righty
With the Nats Since: Drafted (9th round) by Nationals in 2010 Debut: March 31st, 2014
Who is this Guy? He’s a bad mamma-jamma, that’s who. Barrett is a 26 year-old, former collegian, who K’d his way through the minor leagues before beating out a host of veterans to earn the last spot in the bullpen this Spring Training. His age means his time is now and so far so good. He has faced 13 batters to this point and he’s struck out 6 of them. He has yet to give up a hit, much less a run. He throws two pitches – a fastball and a slider – almost evenly, in the classic Brad-Lidge-late-inning-reliever mold. Update: Barrett did give up a hit on Friday night, and then was sent back down to make room for players due to an over taxed bullpen. –Ed.
What happened in 2013: He closed 26 games for AA Harrisburg. He struck out 69 and walked only 15 in 50 1/3 innings – good for an ERA of 2.15 and a FIP of 1.87. While he didn’t get promoted to AAA or get a September call-up, he was added to the 40-man roster this winter to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. His performance probably helped make it easier to trade Nathan Karns for Jose Lobaton (and a couple others) since he could fill the power-arm-out-of-pen void. It’s hard to win a job in Spring Training without any kind of major league resume, which only speaks volumes to Barrett’s achievement last year and the front office’s confidence in him. Not to mention his manager’s confidence. Patrick Reddington profiles Barrett’s past with Williams for MASNsports.com here.
What’s Expected: Barrett’s strikeout of Stanton has already exceeded any expectation anyone could have had. Anything else from here on out is just gravy. Seriously though, if he’s able to continue to mix a “heavy” four-seam fastball with his devastating slider, he’ll be a valuable middle-inning match-up guy for his rookie manager. He can allow Drew Storen to work later in the game, or get a day’s rest, which will only help the performance of the bullpen as a whole. His K rate of 46% is better than his swinging-strike percentage of 10% would suggest, so he’s obviously saving his swings-and-misses for when he has two strikes on a hitter. I’m sure hitters will adjust after they see more of him, so continuing to stay ahead in the count will be huge as the season progresses.
If It All Goes Right: Barrett provides the power arm the Nats need while lightening the load for everyone else. He maintains a K/9 rate in the neighborhood of 12 while limiting home runs. He’s a flyball pitcher but he only have up 2 homers last year. He’ll have to keep it up if he’s going to last.
If It All Goes Wrong: Hitters adjust to Barrett’s style and force him to fall behind in counts. Barrett has to use more fastballs and fewer sliders – his most vicious weapon – and starts to give up more long balls. The walk and homer rates increase, his K rate decreases and he’s replaced by the next man up from Syracuse.
Rookie Pitchers, especially power ones, have the advantage over major league hitters because they are unknown. But that only lasts so long. Between advance scouting, scouting reports and film study, the game adjusts to you quicker than ever. But every young player must constantly win the game of adjustments and readjustments and Aaron Barrett is no different. His slider is a legit weapon, and he throws hard enough (93.7 mph fastball) and as a Nats’ fan, you have to like his style. I believe ‘bulldog mentality’ is the phrase. Hopefully he’s able to maintain something close to this level of success and help push the bullpen from average to elite. The job is his as long as he can hold it.