Luis Barrera Turns Tools Into Skills
The Athletics spent big on raw tools back in 2012, investing $450,000 in a 16-year-old Dominican outfielder who could run and throw with the best in his class.
Then they waited. And waited. And finally Luis Barrera has emerged as a legitimate prospect, even an all-star, at age 23. Oakland even added him to the 40-man roster to shield him from the Rule 5 draft.
"Our guys liked him from the beginning,” farm director Keith Lieppman said. "He’s very toolsy. He has an athletic body, he can run, has a great arm and great hand-eye coordination.
"His play never corresponded to his tools. As he got a better understanding of the game, his performance continued to improve.”
That improvement showed in 2018 when he started by hitting .284 in 88 games at high Class A Stockton. He followed by hitting .328 in 36 games at Double-A Midland. That earned him a job at the Arizona Fall League, where he was named to the all-star team and held his own with the top prospects in baseball.
In the regular season he hit .297/.361/.426 with three home runs and 23 stolen bases.
Barrera can play all three outfield positions and appears to be a true center fielder. The A’s grade his speed as close to a 70 on the 20-80 scale, with a plus arm that makes him legitimate in right field. His total defensive package is improving constantly as he learns routes and reads in the outfield.
A lefthanded hitter and thrower, Barrera fits into the mold of a table-setter, though Lieppman expects more power will develop as Barrera gains more experience. Right now, he drives the ball from line to line, using his speed and aggressiveness to take extra bases. He had 26 doubles and 11 triples in 2018.
"He can really find a way to go home to third; he has a good sense of that,” Lieppman said. "He’s one of the top speed guys in our system. He knows how to use his speed defensively and on the basepaths. And he knows how to bunt for a hit. That may be one of the best things he does.”
After the slow start to his career, Barrera's improvements are now coming quickly. Increased maturity and improving his mental game have helped.
"He wants to learn, and that’s so important,” Lieppman said. "The tools that didn’t play earlier are starting to produce results.”
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• The A’s will operate a second team in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2019. Lieppman said the decision was made because the organization has so many young Latin American prospects who need more playing time.