And the Milwaukee Brewers rebuild has begun.
On Thursday, the Brewers sent third baseman Aramis Ramirez to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for right-handed relief pitcher Yhonathan Barrios. The Pirates are also taking on $3 million of Ramirez’s remaining $5.74 million contract.
Trading Ramirez was basically a given for Milwaukee. They needed to shed some money off his large contract, and since he’s retiring at the end of the season, there was no reason to keep him in a Brewers’ uniform. The Pirates, who were in desperate need of a third baseman with injuries to Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer, was an ideal fit for both Pittsburgh and Ramirez. Ramirez gets to go back to the team he began his career with and has a legitimate chance of making the postseason. Good for him.
But who are the Brewers getting in Yhonathan Barrios?
Barrios is a 23-year-old reliever who stands at an undersized 5’11”. He originally started out as an infielder out of Colombia, but since his bat never found its groove, the Pirates shifted him to the bullpen. The results have been a little better, but nothing too noteworthy.
The (minimal) excitement that surrounds Barrios is his action fastball. It sits in the 94-98 mph range and can hit 100 mph. He also throws a changeup to offset his power pitch, with a slider mixed in there as well.
Barrios’ stats (1.46 ERA and 3.89 FIP) in Double-A were good enough to earn him a promotion to Triple-A this season, but he was helped tremendously by a low batting average on balls in play of only .211. His luck has changed since the promotion, and as a result, so has his numbers. In 15.2 innings out of the Triple-A bullpen, Barrios has a 4.50 ERA with 3.56 FIP. His ERA got worse but his FIP, which tells a better story than ERA, improved. That’s due to a small uptick in strikeouts and the fact he hasn’t given up a home run yet.
When Barrios started out in Pittsburgh’s minor league system, he threw like a strikeout pitcher. In 2013, he struck out 23.8% of batters in 11 innings in Rookie Ball before moving to A ball a season later. He was just as effective at getting the K there (20.7 K%). But once Barrios was promoted to High-A, the strikeouts suddenly dropped, and they have yet to re-emerge in Double-A or Triple-A. Combining his numbers from AA and AAA, Barrios has set down just 12.3% of batters via the strike out. Walks are also a huge problem for the young righty. His walk rate was over 11% in Triple-A before the Brewers made the trade.
Barrios is a guy who doesn’s strike out batters and walks too many of them. Why would the Brewers want someone like him? It’s simple, really. Barrios is the type of player a team gets in return when it ships off an old hitter with just two more months left of his career. He didn’t make any notable top prospect lists and barely squeezed in on FanGraphs’ top 31 Pirates’ prospect list. Not many think that highly of him.
If anything, Barrios is a lottery ticket. And because he’s a lottery ticket, Brewers’ fans should be excited. Buying lottery tickets is fun! With his fastball speed and movement, he has upside as a future reliever/closer. But if you’re expecting him to transform into a starter, well, that’s just not going to happen.