I'll admit, I kind of brushed off Yhonathan Barrios last year when the Brewers got him. I'd never heard of him before. He never really rated on any prospect lists. And my expectations for what the Brewers could get for Aramis Ramirez--not much--probably colored my opinion of the young reliever. But I think I was too hasty in judging his potential value to the Brewers. He stands a chance of logging a significant number of innings at the major league level this year and if we're lucky he could become a solid contributor to the club for the next six or seven years.
One of the reasons I overlooked him was the fact that he originally was drafted as a position player and only made the transition to pitch in 2013. Pitchers with that kind of a history don't tend to do much at the major league level. It's kind of a last resort because they aren't good enough to play a different position. But that was wrong of me. Not all prospects are created equal and some certainly can succeed on this path. There's reason to believe Barrios could be one of them.
He throws very hard. He only logged 6.2 innings at the major league level last year, but in those innings his average velocity according to PITCHf/x was 96.1 mph. Among qualified relievers, that average velocity would have tied for 14th highest in baseball last year. According to Kiley McDaniel in his prospect capsule on Barrios last year, the fastball sits between 94-98 with above average life. That's makes his fastball at least plus, and possibly double plus. That's a pretty good starting point for any reliever.
But McDaniel also credits Barrios for having a low effort delivery, a solid average change-up, and command that "isn't that bad given the conversion, and arm speed." He goes on to note that Barrios is still learning how to pitch allowing for more upside. It appears as though command was something of an issue for him in 2015, but it might be the only obstacle in front of him. Given his plus-double plus fastball and solid change-up, if he can get his command to average he might be able to handle high leverage innings. But even if that's not his future, his pure stuff should be enough to allow him to survive in middle innings.
Yhonathan Barrios still has things to learn--and prove. But where I once considered him an afterthought, now I'm intrigued by his upside. For half a season of a third baseman in his final year, it's a pretty solid get. Given the changing bullpen dynamic across baseball, relievers are more valuable than ever too. So this could end up looking like a great trade a few years down the road.