When the Cincinnati Reds called up Jose Barrero in 2020 he was put into a spot that he simply was not ready for. The shortstop had topped out in High-A the year before, and while he hit .280/.343/.436 with 37 doubles and eight home runs, it’s an enormous jump to go from there to the big leagues. With the 2020 minor league season cancelled, we don’t really know what Barrero would have done in the minors if there were a season before his call up. Instead he was essentially just having intrasquad scrimmages and practices at the alternate site. That beats not playing, but it’s not quite the same thing as playing against other teams every day, either.

In 2021, though, the infielder was in Double-A and Triple-A and he tore the cover off of the ball. In 85 games he hit .303/.380/.539 with 19 doubles, a triple, 19 home runs, and he stole 16 bases in 20 attempts. That earned him the 2021 Reds MiLB Player of the Year award. Cincinnati called him up late in the season, and he struggled once again, hitting just .200/.286/.320 with three walks and 17 strikeouts.

His 2022 season didn’t get started on time. When he showed up to spring training an injury surfaced that he had suffered prior to arrival but was seemingly undiagnosed since the teams weren’t allowed to have contact with players during the lockout. Barrero had a broken hamate bone and would miss the first seven weeks of the minor league season. His bat never really got going. After obliterating the ball in Triple-A in 2021, Barrero saw his OPS drop nearly 350 points at the level in 2022. Whether it was the wrist injury, the slow start and pressing afterwards, something else, or a combination of just about everything, the 2022 season was a disaster.

Over the offseason he worked to change some of his swing mechanics. He went and played winter ball in Puerto Rico for about a month, and while he didn’t hit a lot in the very pitcher friendly league, he walked 10 times with 16 strikeouts – something that had been an issue for him in 2022 as well as his big league career.

As I type this on Saturday, Barrero is hitting just .225/.291/.327 this season for the Reds. That’s hardly a good line. The first six games of the season saw him go 2-14 with no walks and no extra-base hits. Again – that’s not good.

But starting on April 10th things seem to be going a bit better. In 11 games he’s hitting .257/.342/.400 with two doubles, a triple, five walks, and 11 strikeouts. That’s a slightly above-average hitting line and it’s coming from the shortstop position. Barrero has reached base in eight of those 11 games, and in one of them that he didn’t reach base in he didn’t start the game and only had two plate appearances.

We are still dealing with a small sample size here, Barrero has played in just 17 games in 2023. But his walk rate is currently at 9.1% on the season. That’s almost double the rate at which he walked last season, and higher than any rate he had in the minor leagues except for his stop in 2021 in Triple-A where it was 10.0%. His strikeout rate this season is just 25.5%, which is a massive drop from the 39.9% rate it was in his big league career when the season began.

He’s still swinging too much at pitches out of the zone – 37%. But he has been more patient overall, swinging in the zone less than in the past as well as less out of the zone in the past. That’s helped him walk more and strikeout less. Barrero’s making less contact in the zone – though the difference is quite small – this season than in the past. He’s seeing way fewer first pitch strikes than in the past, and his swinging strike rate is lower than it was last season, but also in line with where it was in 2021.

There are some signs that he’s figured some things out. Fewer walks, nearly double the walk rate – those things tend to help hitters out. But there are some signs – and again, this is a small sample size – that some of that is less his doing as it is just randomness of pitchers not throwing first pitch strikes to him. Of course that could also be because he’s chasing pitches less frequently than he has in the past, which is putting him in better situations, too.

Right now, Barrero is hitting fine. But his line isn’t showing it because of the slump he began the year in. Is he simply riding a bit of a hot streak right now, or are we seeing real changes in the 25-year-old shortstop? We probably won’t know for sure for a while. But the first three weeks of the season has been an interesting ride for Barrero because he’s currently doing things at the plate he’s never really done before in his big league career – even in similar small sample sizes.

53 Responses

    • CI3J

      I’m not even sure if I should scroll down.

      Maybe I should make some popcorn first.

  1. DataDumpster

    He should be given at least 400 ABs this season no matter what to see if he’s starter ready, good trade opportunity, or the latest coming of Senzel. But, when we have a manager who “adopts” Newman to be the latest incarnation of K Farmer (or whatever purpose this serves), not sure if this will happen.
    Barrero needs a fair shot for many reasons. Newman needs a fair shot because (“drawing a blank”).

    • Optimist

      I’ll be critical of field management as well, but Barrero is on pace for 400+ PAs, and I don’t see how that will change. Newman is certainly not “hot”, and he’s already been miscast into the DH role twice. If anything, the guy most likely to displace Barrero is either McLain or EDLC, so I’m more concerned that they’d move Barrero to CF to keep him on pace for the 400+ PAs. IIRC amongst all the SSs they’ve stockpiled, I thought the consensus is that Barrero is the best defender with possible exceptions in the lower minors (Arroyo/Acosta?). If so, keep him at SS and move the others unless EDLC remains lights out thru a mid-season callup.

    • Brad

      I find it funny everyone likes to blame Bell for everything. Bell didn’t trade for Newman who is also getting paid 2.6 million this year. He has probably been told to play both hoping they can flip Newman like others last year. I agree Barrero needs to play everyday too but unfortunately the Reds traded for Newman so now they will want to justify they made a good trade.

      • J

        I find it genuinely amusing when people try to justify Bell’s decisions by assuming he’s being “told” to make them. It’s his reputation and his managerial record on the line. If he’s willing to lose games just to keep the bosses happy, then perhaps this means he’s not as bad at strategy as it appears, but he lacks self-respect and is willing to lose more games just to keep his job. Either way, he’s a bad manager.

      • Jim Walker

        It is a slippery slope for baseball managers and head coaches in other sports when their team is in a rebuild or reset cycle. Last week the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL for any who do not follow) fired their 2nd year head coach within 12 hours after the season, the 2nd in their proclaimed “reset”.

        The front office said it wasn’t about the wins and losses but how the team played their games. I’ll spare the hockey talk and say it was about the equivalent of too many TOOTBLANs, throws to wrong bases, guys not being in position to make plays when they should have been, missing cut off men el al. And CBJ had plenty of these.

        On the other end of the scale, some people felt the last straw was that the coach tried too hard to win down the stretch by playing his top 2 or 3 guys too many minutes in each game as the team picked up 6 standing points in the last 10 games and “fell” from the spot with the best chance in the draft lottery to the 2nd best.

        This was particularly big since in NHL hockey a team can only fall as much as 2 spots from the draft and the consensus top 3 picks this year are seen as can’t miss immediate help players at CBJ’s position of greatest need, and now CBJ could fall as far as #4 in the draft.

        Maybe these guys are just darned whether they do or they don’t. This said I think David Bell probably needs to move on after 4 years of dancing the dance to changing tunes.

      • Melvin

        I would say it may not be Bell’s fault if it were not for the many times he’s proven that he likes to play the Newmans of the world. There’s no way of telling for sure but I’d say it’s a very good chance that it’s on Bell. By the way whether it’s his fault or not it’s time to move on and change managers. Like…right now.

    • wolfcycle

      Agreed…. David Bell is not all our problems, but he is some of them.

    • AMDG

      One encouraging sign is last year Barrero had a lot of 3-pitch K’s, often swinging at low & away sliders outside of the zone.

      Not that’s he’s perfectly fixed that issue, but this year he is producing a lot more quality AB’s.

      Hopefully it’s a sign of progress. If he continues to get playing time, we shall see…

  2. Randy Peterson

    He’s a joke. Trade him now. Overrated. The scout that signed him struck out big time. Doesn’t have what it takes. I bet if you offered him in a trade with the Dodgers, they would turn it down. Bring McLain up.

    • Kevin H

      Then what if McLain isn’t the answer then what

      • Beaufort Red

        How do we know. What if , what if, what if……………

      • Votto4life

        Players should be promoted based on merit. You can’t rush player development. This team is not contending this season. The very last thing the Reds should do is rush a prospect.

        As Kevin points out..if McClain fails then what? You have disrupted Barerro and McClain development for what?

      • Jim Walker

        Next man up. We were told they had about 6 of them

    • Bill

      Why does everyone think the solution is to trade players who aren’t performing? If you aren’t good enough to play on a 100 loss team, what is the trade return going to be?

  3. Woodrow

    I’m not sure there’s any consensus Barrero is even in the top half of shortstops the Reds have in terms of defense.

    Arroyo is likely the #1, Marte may be #5 (but not by a long ways), with Elly, Barrero and McLain grouped in the middle.

    More so, Barrero isn’t passing the eye test or the analytics bar this year or last.

    Let him hit, let’s find a place a place for the bat. But I’ll beat the drum – he’s not the starting shortstop on the next good Reds team. He can be a huge part of that team though.

  4. J

    I have no idea if Barrero will or won’t pan out, and I don’t pretend to know. What bothers me about his lack of progress is that it seems his biggest problem continues to be (as the article notes) swinging at bad pitches. The part that really bugs me isn’t that he doesn’t always have a good eye, it’s that he’s often swinging at bad pitches before the pitcher has even thrown a strike. That mistake could be fixed instantly by a manager who actually steps in and does something instead of sitting back and passively hoping something good happens. Bell should be flashing some TAKE signs once in a while. The other day, after the pitcher had just walked the bases loaded and was clearly having trouble throwing strikes, Barrero swung at a 2-0 pitch out of the zone. How is that even possible? If ever a manager is going to say “take a pitch,” it should be right there, and he obviously felt free to swing away. I honestly think there really is no “take” sign on this team.

    Ultimately, it’s obviously up to JB to decide if he’s going to be a selective hitter, but it would sure help if someone in the organization — someone who’s supposed to be older and wiser — would give him some rules to follow. Like, for example, “in this particular at-bat, you should take pitches until the pitcher has thrown a strike, because this guy is obviously having trouble throwing strikes, and you have a tendency to swing at balls.” Or “in this particular at-bat, you should take pitches until he’s thrown at least one strike, because he definitely wants you to chase pitches in this situation, and he has a good slider that is almost never a strike.” JB usually seems to be completely unaware that these kinds of “take at least one strike” situations even exist. (But he’s getting better! That’s true.)

    • VaRedsFan

      I saw the game you were referring to, and I agree 100%.
      It’s bad enough that he swung at the pitch, and I don’t know what, if anything, was said to him. Maybe it was. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens the next time that situation arises.

  5. Rcsodak

    Trade him for PTBNL. Maybe he goes somewhere kills it and Reds get a good young relief pitcher

    • Oldtimer

      PTBNL doesn’t mean that the return depends on his output. The trade is made but the return isn’t announced publicly until later.

    • Jimbo44CN

      Why not trade him for a bucket of balls? Huh? What? He is much improved over last year and seems to be getting better all the time. This is just like the guy said above that the scout who found him should be fired. This kid needs to keep playing. And what happens if they bring another shortstop up too soon and he fails. Early in the season, he is better than last year’s version. Keep playing him.

  6. VaRedsFan

    I want him to play 9 out of every 10 games at shortstop.
    People are high on his defense, but i haven’t seen it yet. They are saying “well, he’s only made 2 errors” which is true, but he has misplayed far more than just the 2 that were called errors. He has been very weak to his backhand…booting 3 balls that weren’t charged as errors. He messed up the transfer on a sure double play that would end the inning, allowing multiple more runs to score. On the positive side, he has a rocket for an arm.

    Again….I’m not hating on him, just relaying what I’ve observed. Keep playing him…give him a chance to improve. It’s far to early to give up.

    • Jim Walker

      Agree. This is where I am on Barrero. I hope if his offense comes around, he will settle in defensively at the level we’ve been led to believe he is capable of playing.

    • MBS

      Right, I say play Barrero, but if someone thinks he’s playing good defense, then why is he rated 43rd out of 46 with a -.03 DWAR at SS ? Newman is rated 44th out of 46 at -.04DWAR, so not very good.

      That being said, I’d still play Barrero everyday. Now midseason come around and EDLC, or McLain has earned a call up, and Barrero isn’t getting it done, then that’s another story. I still hold out some hope.

      • MBS

        I don’t know if I should bring this up to, but India is 51st out of 51 on DWAR as a 2B, -0.6. Our up the middle defense isn’t good, it’s actually the worst in baseball.

  7. LDS

    Give Barrero a year or two before casting a final judgment. There’s no reason to expect McLain to hit any better, especially if they bring him up and Bell turns him into another utility player. And Barrero’s injury certainly plays into his current performance. India was injured a lot last year and barely hit more than Barrero. His defense is frequently criticized. Time to give up his n him too? And Senzel? Patience.

    • Kevin H

      We find common ground. Patience is key with this team and these players.

      It’s hard at times and I think we can agree their is progress and they have potential.

    • Beaufort Red

      While we’re at it let’s give the entire bullpen another year or two. We’re not winning this year anyway. You never can tell.

    • Doc

      Same people want to extend India and replace Barrero despite LDS’ facts showing what they do. Just hate it when facts get in the way of a theory!

      Trying to think of any MLB SS since my first visit to Crosley Field in 1954 who has never bobbled a ball on a potential DP, who has never bobbled a backhand shot… The list is short. I’m currently stuck on none, zero, nada.

      • Kevin H

        Fact is Barrero has struggled at ss defensively. Yes, India is a solid baseball player.

  8. AMDG

    2022 Fielding %’s while playing SS

    Barrero – 0.965
    E Arroyo – 0.957
    M McLain – 0.957
    EDLC – 0.937
    N Marte – 0.929

    For what it’s worth, Barrero’s career fielding % is also 0.965, and thru their first 4 seasons (both age 22 thru 25), Barry Larkin had a 0.964 fielding %.

    It’s not the best metric, but all the talk of Barrero’s fielding being subpar just don’t seem to align with the data.

    • Doc

      +1000, or whatever the maximum is that one is allowed to assign to a cogent, documented comment.

    • VaRedsFan

      You obviously just read stats instead of watching actual games.

  9. RedBB

    .742 OPS during his “hot streak” would be below league average when you consider hitting in GABP. His OPS+ would be somewhere around 95 during that streak

    • RedBB

      That being said I don’t mind him trying out CF if that means benching Senzel. The insanity level of Bell continuing to play Senzel has surpassed that of his decision to continue running David Hernandez out there a couple of years ago. Bell effectively ended David Hernandez’s career by doing that.

    • AMDG

      Granted, the ‘hot streak’ is more of a streak of competence.

      But, during that same span Newman only has a 0.631 OPS but is still getting a 40/60 chunk of the playing time.

    • Doc

      50% of all players are below league average at their position in hitting, fielding or both, and if you kick all 50% out and replace them with better players, 50% will still be below league average.

      • RedBB

        If his OPS+ was 100 I would be overjoyed. But to be clear Barrero’s OPS+ this year is 63. I just was pointing out how cherry picking stats never works…

  10. Old-school

    Hes in CF today!

    Its clear barrero and Newman will share the position for near to intermediate term

    • Kevin H

      Newman is batting 375 against left handed pitching. Last time I looked Barrero is batting 077.

      In saying that yes I do think keep playing Barreo at ss.

    • greenmtred

      Barrero is fast, has a strong arm, and some prior experience in center field. The Reds have a number of shortstop candidates in the minors–including the #1 prospect in baseball–some of whom may be ready later this year or next. The Reds also don’t have a top centerfielder in MLB or MiLB. In these circumstances, it’s far from stupid to see whether Barreo can become that guy while also giving him substantial time at short, and that scenario requires a place holder; enter Kevin Newman.

      • Melvin

        I would say trying Barrero in CF is not such a bad idea except for the fact he’s supposed to be the best defensive SS we have. If that truly is the case then leave him there until he proves he can’t hit. I’m really not worried about the errors at this point. Let him get settled in the majors. As for his hitting I have seen improvements in several ways. The most encouraging thing I see is when the tv broadcasts show the dugout. Practically every time they do I seen Barrero with a tablet in hand watching his previous AB. He’s becoming a student of the game. Because of that he will continue to get better and better. In short….leave him at short. 🙂

      • Old-school

        It does appear they want EDLC at SS but a 1b also as insurance- barrero.

        So the insurance policy plays CF too

        Pretty soon you Will see EDLC getting a few reps at 3b and then Steer occassional reps at 1b

        Rotations rotations rotations

      • greenmtred

        Yeah, I agree that he should continue to play more at shortstop. Since nobody really knows how the prospects will develop, it makes sense to keep Barrero ready and able while also giving him reps in center.

  11. citizen54

    I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for Barrero. Yes it’s a small sample size, but his Statcast numbers are mostly blue. He hasn’t been a victim of bad luck or anything like that. His xwOBA is in the bottom 12%. Fangraphs has him at -.2WAR and wRC+ of 63.

  12. Jim Walker

    Somebody, probably several somebodies, are going to be traded over the next few years as the Reds work through this cycle.

    If the Reds want to get something of value for these guys and in the process fill or shore up some remaining weak spots, they have to play everybody somewhere (geographical locale and class level).

    This is the hand the organization has chosen to deal itself. Let’s see how it plays out.

  13. Kevin H

    Has anyone looked at Hopkins stats? Going back to last season and this season. He is doing well, and one has to wonder if he will get a shot. I am for moving Myers to 1st permanently and letting Volser go.

    • Melvin

      I’m all for bringing up Lopez and letting one of these older guys go. The reason is simply because we know David Bell doesn’t like him and he actually will be a “backup” while providing just as much as the Newmans and Voslers will.

      • Kevin H

        Truly amazing how Lopez produces when up yet .. well….

  14. Mike

    Watching the Reds is like watching paint dry. Please Hire a real manager. Bell plays different lineups with guys in different positions every game. He has never been able to make up a consistent lineup. Joe Madden could do wonders with these kids.