PLAYER REVIEW: TRES BARRERA
Age on opening day 2023: 28
How acquired: Sixth-round pick, 2016 draft
MLB service time: 172 days
2022 salary: $700,000
Contract status: Under team control, arbitration-eligible in 2025, free agent in 2028
2022 stats: 19 G, 53 PA, 50 AB, 2 R, 9 H, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 2 BB, 16 SO, .180 AVG, .212 OBP, .200 SLG, .412 OPS, 21 OPS+, -1 DRS, -0.4 fWAR, -0.4 bWAR
Quotable: “I knew it was going to come at some point. It’s part of it, and I just try to maintain and (stay) ready. Come with the same attitude like I was going to play every single day, and today was the day, and I had fun with it.” – Tres Barrera, after going 2-for-4 in a Sept. 21 win over the Braves, his first appearance three weeks after his recall from Triple-A Rochester
2022 analysis: After getting his first extended taste of the big leagues – and enjoying some success in the process – in 2021, Barrera found himself on the outside looking in entering 2022. With Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams having since been acquired, he was optioned to Triple-A to begin the season and didn’t figure to earn a promotion unless something went wrong with one of those two.
Barrera would catch 55 games in Rochester before the call came July 1. With a struggling Adams sent down, the door was now open for him to return to the big leagues and serve as the Nationals’ No. 2 catcher. Barrera didn’t do a whole lot with the opportunity: In 14 games in July and August, he went 6-for-33 one double, four RBIs, two walks and 11 strikeouts. So the Nats recalled Adams in late-August and sent Barrera back to Rochester, though not for long.
Once rosters expanded to 28 on Sept. 1, Barrera returned to the big leagues to serve as the No. 3 catcher. But that didn’t lead to any consequential playing time. Nor did Ruiz’s season-ending injury in early-September, which prompted the promotion of catching prospect Israel Pineda to make his major league debut. Barrera started only five games in September, going 3-for-17 with five strikeouts. He also struggled to stop the running game, finishing the season having thrown out only two of 14 basestealers.
2023 outlook: The Nationals have their No. 1 catcher, of that there’s no doubt. They also have not figured out who should be their No. 2 catcher, of that there’s also no doubt. So Barrera should still be in the mix for that job next spring. But at this point, there are reasons to believe he’s fallen down the depth chart.
The organization still seems to believe Adams, despite his struggles this season, has more upside as both an offensive and defensive catcher. Pineda, meanwhile, remains an intriguing possibility down the road but probably needs to be playing every day at Triple-A for a while longer, not starting once or twice a week in the big leagues.
So where does that leave Barrera? A strong spring performance could earn him the job ahead of Adams. But if he doesn’t play his way into it, he could be the victim of a roster crunch, subject to losing his spot on the 40-man roster by the end of spring training. If he ends up in Rochester, he would probably be Pineda’s backup. Either way, there doesn’t appear to be much opportunity for significant playing time for him at this point.
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