MESA, Ariz. -- Doubt entered Luis Barrera’s mind after a season-ending shoulder injury restricted him from playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, as he usually does. He feared the lack of at-bats might have an adverse effect on him at the plate this spring. So far, that hasn’t been
MESA, Ariz. -- Doubt entered Luis Barrera’s mind after a season-ending shoulder injury restricted him from playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, as he usually does. He feared the lack of at-bats might have an adverse effect on him at the plate this spring. So far, that hasn’t been the case.
“It looks like he played winter ball the way he’s swinging the bat,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
Barrera, Oakland’s No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline, entered Wednesday’s game against the D-backs having collected five hits in his first 12 Cactus League at-bats. He’s also shown off athleticism and range in his time playing right field with a couple of leaping catches.
Barrera, 24, is looking much like he did for most of 2019, a breakout year which saw him slash .321/.357/.513 in 54 games at Double-A Midland, earn a selection to the Texas League All-Star Game and win the game’s MVP. A shoulder injury ended his season on June 27. Were he able to remain healthy, Barrera stood a good chance of getting called up to the Majors in September.
“I think he was one of these guys that might have been on a little bit of a faster track had he not been injured,” Melvin said. “He’s come in this spring looking to prove something.”
The injury was a brief interruption to his progression, but Barrera did not allow the sour ending to his season to keep him down for very long.
“I was very happy with the season I was putting together,” Barrera said. “I was working towards joining my friends up in the big leagues. But things happen for a reason. I can’t get frustrated about what happened, or question it.”
Instead, the outfielder has quickly resumed that ascent back up in Spring Training. The fear of being rusty at the plate has quickly left Barrera, and that’s because even though he didn’t play winter ball, he was still putting in work during the offseason.
Barrera traveled back to his home country of the Dominican Republic at the conclusion of the season and followed his shoulder therapy schedule to a T. Once he regained full health around late November, Barrera began a hitting program with his trainer.
His days usually began around 6 a.m. He’d start with work in the cage, then move on to soft toss and regular batting practice. Once Barrera started to feel his groove, he brought in several pitchers who had played in the Dominican League to face him in live situations.
“I tried to stay as sharp as possible,” Barrera said. “Everyone has something they try to get better at. I got to the point where I felt no pain and now I’m ready to work.”
Barrera led the team in at-bats this spring entering Wednesday’s game. Part of that is due to Stephen Piscotty’s rib cage injury that has kept him out of games early on, but Melvin also said it’s because Barrera is “swinging the bat well and continuing to impress” in games.
After getting a total of just 13 at-bats with the big league squad in Spring Training last year, Barrera is aware of the bigger opportunity in front of him this year.
“It feels great. I’m thankful to Bob and his staff for giving me an opportunity to play more this spring,” Barrera said. “I’m just showing up every day to do my work, trying to get better so I can play even more.”
Barrera has yet to play above Double-A, so a stint with Triple-A Las Vegas is where he is most likely to start the regular season. That said, he’s now on the 40-man roster and many in the organization are big fans of his tools. Given his left-handed bat and ability to play all three outfield spots, he’s an attractive option to balance out the A’s right-handed heavy lineup, and Barrera could be one of the first prospects to get a call once a need arises in Oakland during the regular season. For now, he’ll make sure to leave a lasting impression in Spring Training.
“I feel really close,” Barrera said of reaching the Majors. “I feel like I’m ready, just waiting for the call and waiting for that door to open for me to go up there and do my work. I feel like this is my year.”
Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.