Johnny Barbato

Position: RHRP
Level: Triple-A
Affiliate: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
Age: 24 yrs, 2m
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 235
B/T: Right / Right
Acquired: 6th Rd., 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft (SDP); Acquired in December 29, 2014 trade for Shawn Kelley (NYY)

Prospect Spotlight

Barbato came into the August 27 game against the Rochester Red Wings to start the 5th inning in relief of a seriously roughed-up Richard Bleier (four IP, 10 H, six ER).  Barbara’s high-octane arsenal was a serious change-of-pace off of Bleier’s softer stuff, and he put up two hitless innings with three strikeouts, while working quickly and from ahead in the count to four of the six batters he faced.

He brought an above-average four-seamer to the table at 93-to-95 mph (T96 twice) that he worked inside with some slight bore to RHH and set up his hard-biting slider with ¾ depth and late, sharp bite at 87-to-89 mph that flashed plus. He also threw a few curveballs at 78-to-80 mph with average depth that worked to keep hitter off balance.  But the slider is likely the go-to for put-away.

Barbato has a solid, thick frame with boulders for thighs.  He throws with some stab in the back that goes straight down behind his back hip and up into a tight arm circle to provide some plus deception.  He gets big drive off the mound with that lower half, ending with a hop-step finish around his plant foot to the first base side to finish a high-effort delivery. In this view Barbato’s command was on — save for what looked to be an effectively wild 96-mph fastball in on the chin of the sole lefty he faced, Daniel Parka, in the 6th, and the fastball command helped him get some chase on the slider when ahead in the count.

Since the All-Star break, his Triple-A numbers have shown some shut-down effectiveness, including a 1.08 ERA, .169 BAA, and 1.02 WHIP.  But there’s also a longer-term control issue that can be seen in the numbers, and this is where the profile gets cloudy for me.  Despite the solid outcomes recently, he’s got seven walks over his last 15.2 innings, and for the season he’s got a well-below average 4.2 BB/9, up from 2015’s Triple-A rate of 4.0 and 2014’s 3.3 across Double-A Trenton and San Antonio.  The strikeout rate is also trending the wrong way, from 2015’s 9.4/9 to 8.5/9 this year.  Most telling is that his hits-per-9 IP has jumped from 4.7/9 to 7.5/9 year-over-year at the Triple-A level, and indication that the advanced hitters at the higher levels will wait him out and force him into the zone, making his fastball hittable when he is forced to throw strikes.

After starting the year with the Yankees, these trends seemed to also have played out at the major league level (3.5 BB/9, 9.0 H/9 rates, though a bump in Ks to 10.4/9) and he was optioned on May 9 after 13 appearances.  He was given another look via a quick up/down outing for the Yankees on August 5 – an ugly 0.0 IP, 3H, 3R, 1BB line that had him optioned back to the RailRiders the next day.  With their recent wipe-the-slate clean approach to their relief corps – goodbye LHPs Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in roster-rebuilding trades – and his August 5 call-up netting a rather rough outing, it would seem his spot in the pecking order of September tryouts for the Yankees’ 2017 bullpen corps might have taken a hit.  However, the fastball/slider combo was impressive in this viewing, and improved control and consistency over multiple outings would get him back on the front offices’ radar soon enough, and possibly bump him off of his present Role 30, AAAA profile.