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.

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.

48 Responses

  1. Jim t

    If we can get Barrero back on the right path it would be huge. Having him secure the SS position would create a bunch of opportunities for other prospects to fill other holes.

  2. AMDG

    Last year he only hit 0.113 with a 73% K rate when he fell behind 0-2 or 1-2 in the count.

    Although, from the AB’s I saw, there seemed to be quite a few AB’s when he would fall behind due to umps calling pitches outside the zone on him as strikes. And if you’re getting balls called against you as strikes, it’s going to force you to chase breaking balls outside for that 3rd strike.

    But his 17% K rate in P.Rico is encouraging. As is the 0.397 OBP. Both are better than his 2021 minor league K% and OBP.

    • Muddy Cleats

      Agree! I saw a good approach w/ him trying to stay inside the ball & go gap to gap, but even w/ that approach, he really struggled to hit the curve ball. Just has to learn to stay back & let the ball travel. Larkin was great at it; maybe he can help?

  3. JB WV

    Beyond the hitting adjustments a healthy year will make a big difference.

  4. Old-school

    Going to right center is huge. Krall made the point earlier in the winter they believe he will bounce back and be more like the 2021 version of himself than the lost year of 2022. He injured the hamate in January but didnt get it diagnosed till march due to the lock out. Hes still only 25 and has all the tools. Certainly another thing to watch in 2023.

  5. JB

    I will take anything positive right now out of the organization. Hope he comes back and proves people wrong.

  6. Mark Moore

    I watched the side-by-side clips. Thanks for doing that.

    I see the toe-tap vs. leg-kick. Hope that’s part of the change process.

    Am I also seeing the updated process produces a slightly flatter swing. Anyone else see that in the clip?

    • Old-school

      DIdnt India make the toe-tap adjustment in 2021 or am I mis-remembering?

      Barrero’s swing looks shorter to the ball and more compact. He’s actually loaded more but head is quieter too. His power at GABP could be tremendous if he could develop more plate discipline and stay back on the ball hitting it hard gap to gap.

      • MK

        Looks like it is a longer swing to me. The hands higher than lower obviously means the path is longer. I’d like to see a swing on the hard slider low to the outside of the plate. That was the pitch big league pitchers got him on.

      • Old Big Ed

        His old swing looks a bit longer to me, likely because his new approach keeps his hips more in sync with his hands. Last year’s swing got his hips out in front of his hands, leaving him no way to get to the low outside pitch. (And obviously, it didn’t help that he would swing at low, outside pitches that were well out of the strikezone.)

        Barrero had hit AAA pitching very well in 2021, and it made little sense (outside of the injury) that he would forget over the 2021-22 offseason how to hit at the same level. He wouldn’t be the first guy to struggle after a hand/wrist injury, then get way out of whack trying to get it back.

        Barrero is a big question mark, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he comes back strong. If he can produce, he gives the Reds a whole lot of the athleticism that they have sorely missed in the infield.

        It is a good sign that he works well with the new hitting coach and that he is both coachable and willing to put in extra work to implement the coaching.

      • MuddyCleats

        MK, looks like the toe tap is keeping his front side closed longer, but it looks like he is wrapping his bat more w/ these mechanics?? He’s likely to get beat w/ the FB more w/ a longer swing; wrapping the bat isn’t making your swing any shorter IMO?

    • Tar Heel Red

      Yes, I did. More upright stance and possibly a little open (hard to tell from the angle). That will promote a much flatter swing plain, as opposed to the upper cut swing he has had in the past. These are all good things, but it does nothing to improve his biggest weakness…pitch recognition. There is no debate on his ability to hit a fastball, which is very likely what he is seeing the most of in the PRWL. Dispite the fact there are some major league level pitchers there, many scouts that rate the pitching level estimate it to be somewhere between A and AA levels. This means that the vast majority of the pitchers he is facing are throwing primarily fastballs. So far there has been no mention of what level of pitchers he has faced in the 15 games he has played in. Until he proves he can hit major league breaking balls he will continue to struggle. In other words “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

      • Melvin

        One small way it might help would be if he truly does have more of an open stance it may help with pitch recognition in that he’s right handed and most likely his right eye is dominant (most have a dominant eye just like a dominant hand) therefore helping him to see that ball better. Time will tell.

  7. Melvin

    I like his hands being higher, more of a open stance, more upright. These things will make him quicker and able to adjust better. He’s making good progress.

  8. Rob

    Hope he does well but I am not buying this bill of goods. I saw enough last year. I am definitely OK with him showing off his new swing in Louisville for 1-2 months. If he is successful, and not 230 with 50% strikeouts, bring him up. But no more handing him the job and losses that go with it. Make him earn another chance at this.

    • earmbrister

      It would seem like they’re not handing him the job this year, after the trade for Kevin Newman. Time will tell.

  9. SultanofSwaff

    Incredible how much bigger he is than his teammates—dude is just built different…kinda like A-Rod in that he’s a big but athletic SS. I like the swing change….his swing at the end of the season looked fear-based, like, he was afraid of getting beat by the fastball. This new swing seemingly has him trusting his athleticism. We’ll see. With his plus defense and a league average (.706) OPS he would be incredibly valuable. Heck, Javier Baez had just a .671 OPS and is still a 2.5 WAR player.

    Mychal Givens is a quality reliever who signed a one year deal for $5mil. How is it the Reds wouldn’t be in on a guy like that for the price? Frustrating.

    • DataDumpster

      Don’t remember why we let him go in the first place. Pretty solid career and the Reds let him walk. With all the parade of prospects and has-beens that found a way into David Bell’s lineup card the last few years, he and Drury were the two real “finds” (meaning low cost per the Red’s approbation).
      Now, I see that Brandon landed a 2 year deal with the Angels at $17 million. I’ll bet we could have got him much cheaper if approached before the sell off but instead we traded him for a 17 year old prospect (and a bucket of balls).
      As far as Barrero is concerned, improvement seems likely but he has to be able to recognize pitches. How many times did he miss the low and outside slider in the dirt by a foot last year?

      • Jim Walker

        Re: Given and Drury, MONEY. If a team avoids peaks, even small ones, the valleys don’t seem as deep in comparison.

  10. MBS

    I’ve been cautiously optimistic about Barrero. I do think starting in AAA is the safer way to begin the year. Not just to prove he can hit, but to get his confidence back to.

    • DX

      If you play Barrero in AAA where do you play ELDC, McClain and other prospects. Barrero needs to play SS. He is not blocking anybody at the major league level.

      • MBS

        It’s pretty easy to make an argument that everyone you mentioned could use a little more time at their current level before progressing up the ladder. However if you want EDLC and McLain up at AAA too, that would be very doable. Barrero has played CF and SS, EDLC split time with McLain as a SS/3B, and McLain split time with EDLC as a SS/2B. I’d probably move McLain off of SS, as he’s 3rd in that pecking order, and if we add Marte to the discussion, he’d probably be the 4th option.

        Personally if it were me making the decisions, I’d keep them all back, and promote them a bit slower than most of the fans (including myself) want to see. Emotionally I’m a very now person, but slow playing these promotions are probably smarter.

      • MBS

        It could look something like this, but again, I’d probably start EDLC and McLain in AA.

        C Stephenson/Maile AAA Free/Robinson
        1B Votto/Moustakas AAA McGarry/CES
        2B India/Reynolds AAA McClain/Hernandez
        3B Steer/Lopez AAA CES/Hernandez
        SS Newman/Reynolds AAA Barrero/EDLC
        RF Friedl/Solak AAA EDLC/McLain
        CF Fairchild/Solak AAA Siani/Barrero
        LF Fraley/Solak AAA Hopkins/Hurtubise

      • MuddyCleats

        ELDC has already out grown the SS position; the kid should b in CF. Oh he can still play SS at a very high level, but the Reds need him in CF.
        This allows room in the INF for the other top rated 4-5 SS in the organization room to play in the INF. Moving ELDC makes room for Barrero to start in AAA at SS where he belongs.
        Minor league stats can be misleading do to differences of leagues and ball parks. Most teams look at ABs, Bat Speed, Plate Approach, can a kid make adjustments, can he lay off pitches (Ks/BB) is a player hitting the ball hard etc. These things arent learned or taught over night. I mentioned b4, the avg number of bats for most minor league players before being promoted to MLB is approx 2400. Votto had approx 3000, and he is a generational hitter. Barrero has approx 1400 in minors and approx 1700 overall; he’s not ready for MLB. If he were extremely successful w/ just 1400 ABs, it would be a different story. 2023 has Reds going no where so giving Barrero and ELDC and others TIME to be successful in the Minors would be the prudent thing to do IMHO

  11. redfanorbust

    Here is hoping he does better. As a Reds fan most of the time mostly what we have is hope. Reds had more than their fair share of injuries last year. If the injuries are down to a minimum and guys like Barrero and Senzel and Votto can have decent years, they DFA Moustakas so no wasted at bats and Antione and Sims bounce back from injuries then Reds have a chance to get to .500.
    I hope.

  12. Rednat

    Barrero and Aquino are the prototypical red prospects of the 21st century. they dominate in the Latin American leagues and in the minors but really struggle when they get to the majors.

    The question i have is,, is this a development issue or more scouting problem? are the scouts putting too much emphasis on athleticism and not enough on hit tool, pitch recognition?

    I hope he does well but i think he will be another Aquino

    • LDS

      More likely a major league coaching/management issue than a scouting issue. They exhibit the classic bad management trait of having to do something regardless of how well things are going. Instead of focusing on the overall outcome, bad managers have to be “in charge” and show they are doing something.

    • Doug Gray

      Aristides Aquino didn’t dominate in the minors at times (he had two real good seasons and a few clunkers) and he’s never, ever hit in the Dominican Winter League (career .591 OPS in 77 games in parts of 7 seasons).

      As for the whole pitch recognition thing…. it’s basically impossible to scout this at the levels teams scout international players at. In Latin American you’re trying to see if a child can read spin when no one he’s facing can actually throw a good breaking ball because they are also children. In Cuba, you’re looking at a guy in Barrero who was a teenager player against grown, experienced men a decade older than he was.

      The prevailing thought is that for the most part, 95% of players aren’t going to really improve their pitch recognition issues over time because it’s related to eyesight and not a situation where they just haven’t learned something. You either can see the ball well enough or you can’t.

  13. LDS

    I have higher expectations of Barrero than many here. At least RLN gives us some good news from time to time, while other teams are improving their rosters. The official Reds feed is more often than not former players’ birthdays or autographed ball giveaways.

    • Jim Walker

      The official Reds feed is more often than not former players’ birthdays or autographed ball giveaways.

      Pardon my paraphrase but what else are they going to write about? 😉

  14. Jim

    The proof is what he can do in the regular season when he is facing Major League pitching day after day. I’m not convinced he will EVER be able to hit Major League pitching. I hope he proves me wrong.

  15. Kevin H

    I admit I scrolled and didn’t read the article . I saw the headline.

    I just wanted to wish all a Happy Holiday and new year.

    • earmbrister

      Happy Holidays Kevin/to you all.

      Enjoy!!!

  16. Eddiek957

    Happy Festivus Eve. I think Jose was rushed last year. Hopefully he’ll be healthy and ready to go

    • Mark Moore

      Multiple people have commented that hamate bone injuries are tricky. That and likely some rushing were compounding factors at minimum.

      • earmbrister

        Jesse “Winkler” ‘s development was delayed by the same hamate injury, IIRC. Hopefully he’s moving past it and can get back to where he left off in 2021.

        Barrero is certainly capable of adding value at SS or CF if he can find his stroke again.

  17. Troy

    Where can you find the Puerto Rico winter league stats?

  18. Redsvol

    That new swing looks awful long to me. Almost like it’s been changed to add more power. I do think ditching the leg kick is a good move.

    It’s a huge change for a player at this level. Shows a willingness to work but I worry that’s an awful lot to change at one time. Almost a total swing makeover. Thought he just needed more slider recognition and not a total swing makeover.

  19. WILLIAM

    I am still not convinced of Barrero. He hit well in AAA two years ago. He has never hit well at the MLB level. I like De La Cruz at shortstop eventually. I do not see a position for him on the 2024 team. I think a lot seems to be made of a short hot streak.

    • DX

      They have nobody else to play this year. There is no guarantee that ELDC will make it either. ELDC appears to be the guy. The same thing was said about Barrero.

  20. Old Big Ed

    Reds sign Wil Myers to 1-year deal, with a mutual option for 2024.

    • Jim Walker

      Just got in from gassing the car up ahead of this Armageddon storm and saw this on Twitter. My first impulse at seeing “Myers signs…” was well there is another guy by the boards for the Reds then realized the Reds were the signing team 😉

      The guess here is that Votto and/ or Senzel are a long shot to be ready for fulltime (if any) duty at the start of the season.

    • LDS

      Certainly, a better signing than the Reds have made most of this offseason, though his recent injury record is a potential risk. Nonetheless, he should be healthier than Senzel and that’s something. And a fallback should Votto not be ready or effective, an all too likely event.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      His left vs. right splits are nearly identical, as far as batting average anyway. I’d consider him an everyday player at several positions.

  21. Lou

    It’s amazing that a broken down Cueto and a Will Myers signing will do for a starved Teds fan base (me included) I haven’t had a reason to watch a Reds game for a long time. But Kim probably kidding myself.

    • Doug Gray

      Broken down Cueto? The guy made 25 starts last season with a 3.35 ERA. What are you talking about?