It’s been a tough year for Jose Barrero. The Cincinnati Reds minor league player of the year in 2021 (where he hit .303/.380/.539 between Double-A and Triple-A) began the 2022 season on the injured list after arriving to Goodyear for spring training with a broken hamate bone. He would miss the first month-and-a-half of the season before beginning a rehab assignment with the Louisville Bats and, well, his bat never got going. He hit .209/.262/.377 in Triple-A after putting up an OPS of .986 at the same level the season prior. Despite the struggles, the Reds called him up and he hit .152/.195/.206 in 48 games at the big league level to end the year.
As you would imagine with struggles like that, it led to some discussion about some swing changes. Barrero was going to head to Puerto Rico and play for Mayaguez this winter. Prior to that beginning in early December he spent some time with new Reds hitting coach Joel McKeithan. It’s not their first time working together as McKeithan was Cincinnati’s assistant hitting coach each of the last two years.
Tuesday night saw Barrero hit a grand slam for Mayaguez and the video of it showed a very different looking set up for the shortstop.
Especial del día: BARRERO GRAND SLAM ?
— #AOtroNivel ???? (@LBPRC) December 21, 2022
There’s a lot going on here, but let’s start at the beginning (this is easier to see from the side view that begins at the 37-second mark of the video). Barrero’s hands are much higher now than they used to be. He also does not have his leg lift, instead opting for a toe-tap then stride as he begins his swing.
Above is a video from Tuesday night and a video from late September of this year. The angles aren’t the exact same, but both are similar enough to pick up on the real differences between the two swings.
Now, hitting the ball was only a part of the problem that Jose Barrero had in 2022. In fact, it was likely the secondary issue. The big issue he had was making contact. His strikeout rate was nearly 70% higher in 2022 than where it was in 2021 in the minor leagues.
Seeing the ball better, being more selective, not chasing out of the zone, etc. – that’s the bigger issue. Sometimes a new swing and set up can help with that. The switch from a toe-tap load from a leg kick can not only help with better timing, but sometimes it can also help hitters stay off of pitches they would have committed to swinging.
We’re going to have to wait and see how this all plays out against big league pitching in 2023. For now we’re only able to see what he’s been able to do against the pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League. There are big league pitchers in the league. But there are also A-ball pitchers in the league. It’s much like spring training where depending on the day or inning you could be facing very different levels of opposition.
Through 15 games played in the league Jose Barrero is hitting .283/.397/.358 with a double, home run, 9 walks, and 11 strikeouts in 63 plate appearances. The league is incredibly pitcher friendly. As a whole, the league is hitting .220/.309/.301 this season.