The Blue Jays continued their recent emphasis on securing and developing pitching depth by making Brandon Barriera their first round selection.
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By selecting pitchers with 18 of their 20 selections in the 2021 MLB Draft, Toronto General Manager Ross Atkins made it clear that acquiring and developing organizational pitching depth was the main priority for the player development staff. The trend continued on Sunday when the Blue Jays selected left-handed pitcher Brandon Barreira with the 23rd overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft.
The 6’1″, lanky 18 year old brings an easy delivery and three 55-grade pitches to the organization. Born in the Bronx, NY and growing up a Yankees fan, Barreira moved to Hollywood, FL to face stiffer competition in South Florida. A regular participant in Perfect Game national and All Star Classic tournaments, Barreira only pitched 124 innings at American Heritage High School and made the decision to only play at first base during his school’s playoff appearance in this season. This raised questions about arm health, though in Perfect Game competition Barreira saw an uptick in fastball velocity to 95 mph with serious run and a slider that consistently logged in at 86 mph. MLB.com scored his fastball, slider and improving change up at 55. Most impressive is his ability to command the strike zone with all 3 pitches, with his control grading out at 55 as well.
Perfect Game ranked Berreira as the 10th best pitching prospect in this draft class and the 3rd overall southpaw. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com both considered the South Florida youngster to be the top high school lefty available this year. Many mock drafts projected Barreira to go as high as the 13th pick (Angels) and generally slotted to be gone before the Jays picked at #23. While many Blue Jays followers were hoping for a college pitcher who was closer to being major league-ready, a talented high school lefthander with 3 projectable plus pitches at age 18 proved too tempting for the front office to resist.
When you look close at video, what jumps out at you is how smooth and repeatable his delivery has been over the past 2 years. Barreira transfers the ball from glove to pitch hand seemlessly and uses the glove transfer to hide the ball until just before release point. Not a “max effort” pitcher, the fastball does have sneaky run through the zone and sets up his use of the changeup late in counts. The slider has late break and should prove effective against right and left handed batters. Because Barreira does not require maximum effort, he can stay balanced and repeat his delivery and release point and should not experience inconsistencies common for high school pitchers transitioning to pro ball.
His competitive nature shone through during his interview on MLB Network after his selection. Barreira was not shy in calling out the 22 teams that had passed on him and promised that “they’re gonna regret it (passing him over)”. More telling was his expressed desire to talk shop with Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah, who he feels is a kindred spirit from South Florida who approaches pitching with the same intensity as he does. When interviewed before the draft, Berreira was defiant in saying “no Red Sox, no Mets”. Given his Bronx roots, there remains a Yankee fan cockiness. But during his interview, Barreira made it clear he was ready to help lead the Blue Jays to a division title.
Blue Jays fans will need to be patient in their desire to see Barreira take the mound at Rogers Centre. He has not logged the level of innings most high school pitchers have and will need to build up length and stamina as he progresses through the Jays system. While he will probably start his career at instructional league level, Barreira will no doubt pitch at Low-A Dunedin in 2023 with advancement to High A Vancouver a possibility. His command and easy delivery should see him spend a year at each level, though his pitching profile would allow him to jump into a bullpen role after a season at Double A while waiting for a chance to break into the rotation.
Barreira has committed to pitch for collegiate powerhouse Vanderbilt.
Keep checking in to Jays From the Couch for more more draft analysis over the coming days and weeks. The slot value for the 23rd pick is set at $3.08 million. Given the Jays 2nd round pick and two compensation round picks, management could choose to sign Barreira for slightly above slot value. Perhaps that is part of rationale for drafting 3 infielders with the 60th, 77th & 78th picks.
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Jersey born, Pittsburgh resident, baseball lifer. Staff Writer jaysfromthecouch.com. Host THE ON FEK CIRCLE on JFtC YouTube Channel. Regular guest on Jays From the couch Radio Podcast. Established WPPJ Rock-a-thon benefit, which has been broadcast annually since 1981 and has raised for than $500,000 for the Early Learning Institute of Pittsburgh. IBWAA member.