Increased velo brightens Barriera's outlook

July 18th, 2022

The Blue Jays selected Brandon Barriera with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2022 Draft. Here's a deeper look at Barriera that was first published on in the weeks leading up to the Draft.

A 4-year-old Brandon Barriera had grown tired of missing his target while playing catch, so one day, he told his father he was going to try throwing with his left hand. Like any little kid, Barriera flipped his glove around and put it on his other hand. Turns out he felt more comfortable than ever before.

Since that day, Barriera has been a southpaw.

The control issues didn't immediately go away; it’s almost never that easy. He received the nickname "Wild Thing" based on the character from "Major League." But Barriera, 18, grew out of it at American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.) and now ranks as MLB Pipeline's No. 15 Draft prospect ahead of July's MLB Draft. The Vanderbilt commit is on the smaller side (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) as top Draft prospects go, but features an electric four-pitch mix.

Barriera's fastball, which ranges from 90-95 mph, reportedly reached 99 mph this season. He also throws a changeup, curveball and slider. Barriera learned the latter pitch, which he considers his best offering, from Andrew Painter (now with the Phillies and MLB's No. 70 prospect). Last year's 13th overall pick, Painter used to throw bullpen sessions with Barriera.

"He's the best pitcher we've ever had come through here," American Heritage head coach Mike Macey said of Barriera. "I'm not even going out on a limb to say that. I think that's pretty obvious. He's the only pitcher that we've ever had you'd consider to be a first-round guy. He's got the most hype around him."

It wasn't always that way. After seeing Barriera's raw talent, the family moved from Brooklyn to South Florida when he was 8 years old to maximize his opportunities. He began learning from travel ball coach Nick James, whom he credits for being the one person to believe in him.

Barriera saw his stock rise on last summer's showcase circuit, during which he tossed a perfect inning at MLB’s High School All-American Game. Once that was done, he returned to the weight room. It paid off his senior season, as Barriera went 5-0 with a 2.27 ERA in eight starts (one complete game). He’s faced some top-flight competition, including IMG Academy lefty Jackson Ferris (No. 17 Draft prospect) and outfielder Elijah Green (No. 2 prospect) as well as Westminster Christian third baseman Sal Stewart (No. 78).

“It's like everybody's there watching you guys, and you live for that kind of stuff," said Barriera, who looked up to retired Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte. "That, and you're competing against someone who's in the same spot as you. That could decide -- not saying it will -- who goes before each other in the Draft or little things like that. That can make or break seasons for some people."

After mulling things over with his circle, Barriera shut down out of caution -- not injury -- ahead of the state playoffs. Texas prep righty Cole Phillips (No. 58 Draft prospect), who saw a similar velocity jump as Barriera's from 2021-22, had undergone Tommy John surgery in April. So did close friend and Georgia prep pitcher Dylan Lesko (No. 14). On top of that was an innings jump. He threw just 16 high school innings in '21 because he tested positive for COVID-19. That jumped to 37 frames in '22.

Barriera’s mother recently moved to Tampa, Fla., so he has been based there since shutting down.

"I felt as if I showed everybody what I needed to show, to show them that I am -- if not one of the best, the best pitcher in the Draft this year," Barriera said. "That's where I felt like I put myself in a good position. I get criticized all the time. It's almost like a 'welcome to the next level.' You're going to get criticized with everything you do, but it wasn't an easy decision."