Armchair Evaluation- Washington Nationals Aaron Barrett’s MLB Debut

Nationals Park

One of the many keys to the Washington Nationals opening day victory over the Mets was the excellent pitching of the bullpen, specifically from Aaron Barrett, who made his major league debut on Monday.  Barrett entered spring training an underdog in the competition to secure a spot on the Nationals roster, but after allowing 0 runs and 0 walks against 8 strikeouts in 10.2 innings, he forced himself into the Nationals bullpen to begin the season.

Aaron Barrett, 26-years-old, was the Nationals 9th round selection in the 2010 MLB draft as a senior out of the University of Mississippi.  Barrett famously overcame a battle with the “yips” early in his minor league career to reinvent himself as a late-inning reliever in 2012 and 2013.  A thickly built 6-3 225lbs with plenty of effort involved in his pitching delivery, Barrett was probably a better fit long-term as a reliever anyways.  Blessed with an excellent fastball and a dominant slider, Barrett has also refined his command of the strike zone, allowing only 2.7 BB/9 last year against a noteworthy 12.3 K/9 ratio. 

Barrett entered the game against the Mets on Monday in the 9th inning and needed only 11 pitches to quickly complete the inning.  Barrett threw 7 strikes against 4 balls, striking out 2 hitters and inducing a deep fly out; he threw 4 fastballs averaging 94.82mph, 4 sinkers averaging 94.75mph, and 3 sliders averaging 86.13mph.  (Thanks BrooksBaseball.net)

Both of his fastballs had excellent velocity, obviously, in addition to impressive movement, which made it difficult for the batter to square up and hit.  But the difference-maker for Barrett is his overpowering slider, a true expletive-creating pitch that particularly baffles right-handed hitters.  Armed with an above-average sinker and a true plus slider, Barrett showed on Monday the potential to be a high-leverage major league relief pitcher.

Although this is a small sample of only 11 pitches in his first major league appearance, it is difficult not to be optimistic, even bullish, of what someone with Barrett’s repertoire could do to bolster the Nationals relief corps in 2014.  His mid-90s sinking fastball, devastating slider, and strike out potential should make him an interesting compliment to sinker/slider/double-play machine Craig Stammen in the middle innings for the Nationals.  Barrett will go through the typical ups-and-downs any reliever will, but the Nationals made a wise decision bringing him to Washington, as he will help them this season.

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