Matthew Barefoot's Work During Shutdown Pays Off
A never-ending search for outfield depth landed at little-known Campbell, where a toolsy outfielder had translatable skills that attracted Astros area scouts during the spring of 2019.
Houston selected Matthew Barefoot in the sixth round of that year's draft.
“His swing is so simple,” Astros assistant general manager Pete Putila said. “He’s able to make consistent hard contact, line-drive contact. It just seems like a really good skill set with sound mechanics.
"Really, at this point it’s just about going out and seeing pitching. It’s not like he has to make some huge adjustments.”
The coronavirus pandemic cost the 6-foot, 205-pound Barefoot his first full minor league season. He entered 2021 with just 23 games at short-season Tri-City under his belt.
The 23-year-old center fielder purchased a pitching machine, indoor batting cage and Rapsodo for his home, allowing him to hone his swing during the shutdown.
“He’s real explosive in the swing,” Putila said. “The ball jumps. Not a huge exit speed guy, but it’s a really simple swing with adequate power. He’s able to elevate the ball with ease.”
The Astros promoted Barefoot to High-A Asheville after a torrid start at Low-A Fayetteville. Prior to his promotion, Barefoot slugged .625 with a 1.017 OPS in 64 at-bats. Nine of his 22 hits fell for extra bases. He stole 10 bases in 11 tries, too, taking advantage of the new limited pickoff rule.
The Astros rank Barefoot as a plus runner, Putila said. He shows a plus throwing arm at times, but needs to improve on his routes and reads as a center fielder. Barefoot plays all three outfield spots, but the Astros believe he could have the speed and upside to stick in center.
Barefoot’s development is crucial for an organization that has no substantial outfield depth in the upper minors. Neither Colin Barber nor Zach Daniels have reached Double-A.
Barefoot hasn’t, either, but his ascent brings hope that he could soon become one of the more talked-about position prospects in the Astros' organization.
— Third baseman Abraham Toro, who has shuttled between the major leagues and Triple-A the last two seasons, started his minor league season on the injured list with an oblique strain.
— Third baseman Joe Perez is turning heads at the lower levels. The 2017 second-rounder out of high school threw triple digits as a prep righthander but required Tommy John surgery when he signed. Perez converted to position playing in pro ball and earned a promotion to High-A after slugging .500 and posting a .907 OPS in his first 12 games at Low-A.