Nats prospect watch: Barrera's plate discipline one key to success

Catcher Tres Barrera made his major league debut late last season with the Nationals, appearing in two games. The Eastern League All-Star got off to a good start with Double-A Harrisburg and never looked back. Barrera was able to crank out 23 doubles, eight homers and 46 RBIs in the spacious FNB Field.

"Tres had a great year last year," said Nationals minor league hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich. "Put him in a different park, give him the big league balls, he'd probably hit 15-20 homers last year. And he hit .260. I was at a game where he ended up going 1-for-4 and his three outs were balls that were home runs in any other field. He could've gone 4-for-4 with three homers and a single that day. He probably made close to 1,050 feet worth of outs that game."

Tres-Barrera-sidebar.jpgThe coaching staff focused on tightening up Barrera's swing last year. They also look to increase Barrera's rotation and flexibility in his hips to get the most out of his at-bats.

"He was also another kid from college that was more uphill, a slower swing and he made the adjustments last year," Gingrich said. "Along with (Harrisburg hitting coach) Brian Rupp, we worked on getting him shorter, focusing him more on getting him to backspin the ball. He got a better angle. He got off to a good start so it was easy for him to buy into. He basically rode that wave the whole year.

"The only thing we need to still keep working with him is to fully rotate throughout his swing. A lot of catchers do that. We try to get him more flexible and get his lower half involved and more into his swing now."

Gingrich said Barrera, 25, demonstrated outstanding plate discipline last season, drawing 37 walks.

"He also has done a good job of learning the strike zone," Gingrich said. "The importance of knowing it's OK to take a walk. Not swinging at bad pitches out of the zone early in the counts. Now gets them in favorable counts to hit. Those are big things. Some of the reasons why they are turning out having good seasons are because they are walking and they are not swinging at bad pitches out of the zone early in the count. This gets them in better counts to hit in too. Those are things we stress a lot. It's nice to see the kid make adjustments and understand that."

Barrera finished slashing .249/.323/.381 in 101 games for the Senators. Left-hander Ben Braymer also appreciated how much Barrera helped him throughout the season. The duo made it to the Nats 40-man roster for the first time in 2019. Gingrich likes Barrera's chances of taking another step forward this season.

"Along with the small mechanical stuff we worked on with Tres, I thought his year last year was very, very good and he's continuing to come into this spring working on the same things," Gingrich said. "He didn't get a lot of at-bats in the spring, but once the season gets going I expect a lot of good things from him.

"This kid has a chance to be very, very good. He does have a chance to hit because he is smart at the plate."

* MLB The Show 2020 Players League got underway Friday night as the Rangers' Joey Gallo raced out ahead of the pack with four wins. Nationals left fielder Juan Soto begins play in the video game simulations Monday on Twitch. Here is Soto's opening day schedule:

at Gavin Lux (LAD)
vs. Carlos Santana (CLE)
at David Dahl (COL)
vs. Josh Hader (MIL)

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