Growing up, Addison Barger was often the smallest player on the field. He remembers suiting up for his junior year of high school at “5-foot-4, 100 pounds” and “even when I got drafted I was 150 pounds.”
All that changed coming out of the pandemic. The 23-year-old shortstop capitalized on the downtime created by the canceled 2020 season to put on some 50 pounds and become “a completely different hitter.”
“Out of high school, I was more a guy who would just try to put the ball in play. There’s no problem with walking, obviously, but I would be kind of looking for walks,” said Barger, a 2018 sixth-round pick from Tampa’s King High.
“I decided that I want to be a power hitter, I wanted to be an aggressive hitter and I worked really hard to try to become that and it’s working for me.”
It certainly did during a breakout 2022, when Barger slugged .555 and hit 26 home runs over 124 games between High-A Vancouver, Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo.
He then went deep twice in 16 Arizona Fall League games before being added to the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster.
As a lefthanded hitter with thump, Barger finds himself with a pathway to the big league roster if he keep producing, because the Blue Jays seek to balance out a righthanded-heavy lineup.
Aside from improving his numbers, Barger also slashed his strikeout rate from near 33% in 2021 to 25% a year later. He maintained a walk rate of 9% and pushed his batting average up from .244 to .308.
Barger said his approach remains the same: “jumping on the pitch you like early on in the count and crushing it.”
The extra strength has made crushing the ball much easier.
“The ball just jumps off the bat differently,” he said. “You feel like you don’t have to swing real hard to hit the ball hard. It was definitely weird going from a smaller guy having to swing real hard . . . and then now that you have the size and strength, like wow, you can let it come to you.”