Barger brings power to Fall League with two jacks

October 6th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Addison Barger’s baseball odyssey has trekked him across two countries, three time zones and four clubs in the past six months alone. Now settled into the steamy playing fields of the Arizona Fall League, the power stroke that put him on the map this season appears to have made the journey as well.

Barger clobbered two home runs for the Rafters during the club’s 19-8 loss to the Solar Sox on Wednesday afternoon at Salt River Fields, accounting for two of the five roundtrippers hit in the game.

Barger’s first long ball was a 415-foot three-run shot that got Salt River on the board in the bottom of the first. Toronto’s No. 13 prospect followed that up with a 436-foot rocket in the fifth that left the bat at 105.9 mph. In total, he plated five runs with just two swings of the bat.

“I was just trying to stay on the heater and get a pitch I could handle,” Barger said. “Just kept my path through the zone and got a good piece.”

Entering 2022, Barger had played just five pro games above Single-A. He proceeded to kick the door down at High-A Vancouver, compiling 37 extra-base hits across 69 games. Upon his promotion to Double-A New Hampshire in July, he kept on raking with 55 hits in 47 games. He closed out the year by playing in eight games at Triple-A Buffalo, hitting three homers with nine RBIs.

In all, he swatted 26 homers and collected 91 RBIs with a .933 OPS over 124 games. All of that production landed him on Toronto’s short list for Fall League candidates.

“I definitely thought it was a possibility, if I go out and have the year that I can, like I did,” Barger said of his AFL aspirations. “It was something I thought about, but it’s not something that’s in your control, so I’m just trying to control the controlables.”

Something in Barger’s control is his ability to make an impact from the jump, which he did when he delivered a walk-off single in his first Triple-A game on Sept. 20. Just two days later, the 22-year-old socked his first two-homer performance of the season. That momentum from an impressive eight-game stint (.355/.444/.677) has carried right into the favorable hitting conditions of Arizona.

Despite the considerable offensive output, the contest began inauspiciously for Barger. Drawing the start at short, he fumbled the first ball put in play and an elite 30.1 ft/sec sprint speed from Mesa’s leadoff man Mason Auer (Rays' No. 12 prospect) resulted in an error.

Wednesday’s matinee affair featured 27 runs, but the first run was arguably the most exhilarating and it was made possible by Auer without the ball leaving the infield. Having reached on account of his hustle, Mesa’s center fielder promptly swiped second and third bases. Dancing off third with an aggressive lead, he darted for home on a subsequent wild pitch and managed to slide underneath the tag.

Auer finished a homer shy of the cycle, ripping a double to left-center in the fifth and a triple to center to begin the seventh, before coming up again later in the frame. He tied a knot on his outing with a two-RBI single that capped the fourth crooked number for the Solar Sox.

The ball soared over the walls of Salt River Fields, setting off a free-for-all sprint from two dozen young fans who went scrambling after each home run -- and they had a few to grab.

Every member of the Solar Sox order collected a hit by the fifth, with the unit notching 20 knocks in total. No. 14 Athletics prospect Lawrence Butler and Yankees corner infielder Tyler Hardman cranked two-run homers, while Marlins’ No. 13 prospect Victor Mesa Jr. ripped a three-run shot.

Hardman enjoyed a four-hit afternoon, packing the stat sheet with five runs scored and three RBIs to his ledger. He was one of four Solar Sox to notch at least three hits.

Mesa starter Ryan Cusick went four frames and showcased the power heater that rocketed him up Draft boards in 2021, when Atlanta selected him in the first round. Since traded to Oakland in the Matt Olson deal, Cusick hit a hiccup in his first taste of Double-A (7.12 ERA across 13 appearances) this year; his Fall League debut was much more palatable.

Consistently registering 94-96 mph with his fastball -- which touched 97 -- the right-hander struck out three and yielded just two hits with three walks. He tossed 68 pitches (39 strikes) and the lone stumbling block came when an error prolonged the bottom of the first, which led to Barger teeing off for his first roundtripper.