Is there still an opportunity for Barrera to make Nats roster?

PLAYER REVIEW: TRES BARRERA

Age on opening day 2022: 27

How acquired: Sixth-round pick, 2016 draft

MLB service time: 88 days

2021 salary: $570,500

Contract status: Under team control, arbitration-eligible in 2025, free agent in 2028

2021 stats: 30 G, 107 PA, 91 AB, 8 R, 24 H, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 12 BB, 22 SO, .264 AVG, .374 OBP, .385 SLG, .758 OPS, 111 OPS+, minus-1 DRS, 0.6 fWAR, 0.5 bWAR

Quotable: “When I came up and got sent down after those first three days, Davey (Martinez) said he really wanted me to work on my offensive game. And I really wanted to get better at it and I’m still trying to get better at it. ... I know that I have a long way to go, but just trying to put good at-bats together, get on base and do whatever I can to help the team.” - Tres Barrera on July 21

Thumbnail image for Barrera-Throws-Red-Sidebar.jpg2021 analysis: After serving a suspension for testing positive for a performance enhancing drug in 2020 - a test he insists was not accurate - Tres Barrera was mostly an afterthought in camp this spring. The Nationals had two veteran catchers in Yan Gomes and Alex Avila, so there was no available spot on the roster, barring injury.

Well, turns out both Gomes and Avila got hurt in early July, so Barrera not only found his way to the big league roster, he found his way right into the starting lineup. And acquitted himself quite well in the process. In 17 games in July, he hit .308/.390/.462 with five extra-base hits while also earning the praise of the Nats pitching staff. And after Gomes was dealt to the Athletics at the trade deadline, it looked like more opportunities would be available to Barrera.

But a combination of an August slump (.216/.370/.297 in 12 games in August) and the arrivals of Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams via trade spelled the end of Barrera’s opportunity. He was optioned to Triple-A Rochester on Aug. 30 and didn’t get called up again before season’s end.

2022 outlook: With Ruiz and Adams seemingly locked into the catching position entering next spring, Barrera again would seem to be on the outside looking in. But that’s not necessarily set in stone, and there are scenarios that could open the door back up for him.

First and foremost, Barrera needs to show he can consistently hit like he did in July in D.C. (He batted only .151 with zero extra-base hits in September following his demotion to Rochester.) He also needs to show some serious improvement in his throwing game behind the plate. Major league opponents were successful on 19 of 20 attempts against him this season. Some of that is on the pitching staff, but some of it surely is on the catcher.

If Barrera can do that, he could force the issue this spring. Ruiz is a lock to make the club as the No. 1 catcher, barring injury. Adams, though, is less a lock to make it as the No. 2 guy. He certainly profiles as the better power hitter of the two, but he’s far from a sure thing at this stage of his career. It may be a narrow window of opportunity for Barrera, but it could ultimately be there for him.

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