Oakland Athletics: Finding a spot for Luis Barrera
By David Hill
Luis Barrera may be the best hitter in the Oakland Athletics system, but his path to a major league spot is uncertain.
In a recent prospect ranking on MLB.com, the site looked at the best pure hitters in each system. It was an interesting list, one filled with top prospects, while also shining a spotlight on those players who may not get nearly as much attention as they deserve. That was the case with the Oakland Athletics entry to the list – Luis Barrera.
A seven year minor league veteran, it took Barerra some time to start hitting. In his first two seasons in the organization, he had a total of 30 hits in 201 plate appearances. Yet, he showed solid plate discipline and contact skills, with 23 walks and just 36 strikeouts. The A’s remained patient, hoping that he would reward their faith.
That faith paid off in 2015. Moved to the Arizona League, Barerra began hitting and never stopped. In his first season stateside, the left handed hitting outfielder produced a .287/.344/.348 batting line, showing his strong batting eye, albeit with limited power.
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Barrera finally found his way to full season ball in 2016, and has continued to hit since. Last year, Barerra may have had a chance to make his major league debut, as he had produced a strong .321/.357/.513 batting line in 240 plate appearances, hitting nine doubles and 11 triples. However, a shoulder injury that required surgery ended his season in June, eliminating any chance of his getting a taste of the majors.
With a line drive approach, excellent speed, and an ability to hit the ball to the gaps, Barerra profiles as a possible option in the second spot in the lineup. He is never going to hit for much power, and a more aggressive approach at the plate may limit his ability to get on base, but he also makes consistent contact. There is plenty of reason to be intrigued.
The issue is that the A’s do not appear to have a real opening for Barerra. While he is their top ranked outfield prospect, the likes of Greg Deichmann and Brayan Buelvas have a higher ceiling and are younger. At 25 years old, it is difficult to imagine Barerra becoming more than what he currently is.
Meanwhile, at the major league level, there are not many openings. Stephen Piscotty is signed through 2022, with a team option for 2023. Ramon Laureano is under team control through 2025 and is a prime candidate for an extension. Mark Canha is a free agent after the 2022 season, but left field is more of a revolving door for the A’s. If there is a path to playing time in the majors for Barerra, it could be in left.
But first, Luis Barerra will need to prove that he is healthy. If he can, the Oakland Athletics may not have a choice but to find a way to get him into the major league lineup.