To hear the Astros describe it, Colin Barber was among their handful of targets for a first-round selection with the No. 32 overall pick this past June. The Pleasant Valley (Calif.) outfielder instead fell to the fourth round, where Houston pounced and made Barber the splurge of their 2019 draft class.
Operating with a $5,355,100 signing bonus pool—lower than only two other major league teams—the Astros saved money elsewhere within their top-10 selections to lure Barber. The 18-year-old received a $1 million signing bonus, nearly $600,000 above the slot value for the Astros’ fourth-round selection at pick No. 136.
Among an otherwise college-heavy draft, Barber was considered a standout, the only high school player selected within Houston’s first 17 picks. His raw power and notable bat speed from the left side were the main attractions for the athletic-minded Astros. Barber began his professional career in the Gulf Coast League on June 24.
Barber hit .493 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs during his senior season at Pleasant Valley, where coach Jon Macalutas said Barber possessed bat speed that he “had never seen in a high school kid.”
The Astros appreciated Barber’s simple swing and clean approach, especially for a high school player. Manager of amateur scouting analysis Charles Cook said Barber’s swing is both compact and powerful, something the organization doesn’t normally see in high school outfielders.
Macalutas played Barber in both right and center field, but the Astros seem convinced Barber can stick as a center fielder in pro ball. Barber has been clocked as low as 6.51 seconds in the 60-yard dash, according to results from one prominent high school showcase.
“He’s got the raw athletic ability and he’s got the speed,” Cook said. “It’ll be a matter of repetitions and getting more experience, but he definitely checks all the boxes in a high school kid you want to send out to center field.
“There’s not a whole lot of extra movements to create the power (in Barber’s swing). He’s a strong kid. The power and center field combination is a big attraction.”
— Top prospect Forrest Whitley remains at the team’s spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. on what general manager Jeff Luhnow termed a “season reset.” Whitely is on the injured list with right shoulder fatigue, but tests have shown no structural damage. Whitley, who had a 12.21 ERA in his first 24.1 Triple-A innings in 2019, is throwing in West Palm Beach and seems on track for a return sometime in July.
— Corbin Martin departed his start on June 23 after four innings with right elbow pain. Martin, who made five major league starts earlier this season, is being evaluated by the Astros’ team doctors.