In 2016, for the first time in his four-year minor league career with the Angels, Jaime Barria was REALLY put to work. The 20 year old, originally from Panama, and who had spent some time playing in the Dominican Summer League as a teenager before being brought to the United States in 2015, had come from a situation in the DSL where he was striking guys out left and right, and was definitely turning some scouting heads in the process.
There was plenty to like about the youngster; he had a nice fastball, and his off-speed stuff was coming along, albeit slowly. The ability to locate and command pitches was there, and even though when he got to the USA and found himself in some stiffer competition, not to mention his numbers began to take a hit, he was still showing he had what it took to continue to move up in the system.
His 2015 with the Burlington Bees showed a continued focus on good command, and a sinkerball that was still able to get the job done. He had a 3.66 ERA in 91 innings that year, but his strikeout rate left much to be desired.
It was this past season, though, where he was put to a consistently tougher test, and got the most playing time, thus far. Barria pitched 117 innings at Low-A Burlington, had a 3.85 ERA, while striking out 78 batters (he walked 21), and while most are still questioning his ability to get guys to whiff at competitive levels, the 2016 season was still largely a success for the kid. So much so, that he was named the Angels’ Top Pitching Prospect of the Year.
He still needs to work on his strikeout ratio, and it’d be nice if his secondary pitches could improve to the level that his fastball is currently at, but there is still a ton of talent here, and he’s still merely 20 years old. The 6’1, 210 lb pitcher still has time to grow some more, and pack some more muscle on, which will only help to make his arsenal more deadly.
We’re still a few years away from Barria making any impact at the upper levels of the farm system, or even the MLB level, but his youth gives the Halos plenty of reason not to rush things. With some more work, some more consistent innings pitched under his belt against top competition, and the help of the Angels’ developmental staff, Barria has the potential to be a sneaky good starting pitcher at the MLB level.