One big test remains for Luis Barrera, and the Athletics are aching to see how he handles it.
The 25-year-old Dominican outfielder began hitting in 2018, and he’s been on a tear ever since. He made a big impression at the alternate training site in 2020, but the organization wants to see what he can do against advanced pitching.
“Last year, he was phenomenal,” A’s farm director Ed Sprague said. “He uses the whole field, plays hard, aggressive defense and he runs the bases really well. First to third, he’s the fastest in the organization.”
But the big test will come when Barrera gets to face advanced pitching at the Triple-A level. Will his weaknesses be exposed? Or will he continue to thrive?
“He’s never played in Triple-A, and the question is whether the pitchers will expose his over-aggressiveness in the zone,” Sprague said. “He recognizes that, and he’s getting better.”
Unlike most A’s farmhands, the 6-foot, 195-pound Barrera is an aggressive, slashing hitter who does not draw many walks. While he does not fit the Athletics’ cookie-cutter mold, the organization accepts his different style.
And, if he can add a little discipline to the mix, he could make a quick vault forward.
Barrera does not hit many home runs, but Sprague believes that could improve as he continues to develop. He is a plus defender at both corner outfield spots and can play center field when needed. His plus arm makes him a good fit in right.
The A’s signed Barrera out of the Dominican Republic in 2012.
Barrera got off to a big start at Double-A in 2019, hitting .321 with four homers in 54 games before injuring his right, non-throwing shoulder. Sprague says the outfielder has completely recovered and does not expect a lingering problem.
With the loss of Robbie Grossman to free agency, the A’s are short a reserve outfielder, and Barrera could put himself in position to eventually move into the job if he continues to thrive at Triple-A.
— The A’s added shortstop Nick Allen as a late non-roster invitee to spring training. This becomes particularly important after the club lost shortstop Marcus Semien to free agency when he signed with the Blue Jays. While Allen is not considered ready to begin the 2021 season in the majors, he is an elite defensive talent who might move into the job in the coming years.
— The A’s also added four other late invitees—righthanders Parker Dunshee and Brian Howard, outfielder Buddy Reed and catcher Tyler Soderstrom. Soderstrom was the club’s first-round pick last year and impressed the staff with his hitting skills.