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Jaime Barria is a great pitcher among great pitchers

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I like him, but I also like most of the Angels Pitchers.

Getty Images/Peter Rogers Illustrations

The deeper I dig into these rookie pitchers the more I am floored at how many pitchers have had amazing starts to their major league career this year. Yesterday I highlighted Freddy Peralta who I am the most bullish on. Jaime has more MLB experience (five starts to just one) under his belt so we know much more here.

How Barria got here

Barria was signed by the Angels as an international free agent in 2013 at the age of 16. He played in the rookie league for the next two years working his ERA down from a 10.8 in 2013 to 2.00 in 2015. He was promoted to single A (2016) where he posted a respectable 3.85 ERA striking out six batters per nine innings and winning eight of his 14 starts. 2017 was a break out year as he moved to A+, AA & AAA, keeping his ERA below 3.25 in all three levels, elevating his strikeouts (also increasing walks issued) and allowing one to two home runs per nine innings. His command isn’t perfect but he has been very efficient with a majority of his pitches.

In regards to Jaime’s pitches, he has three pitches and relies most heavily on his fast ball (50% of the time) with a solid slider (31% of the time) followed up by the changeup (19%). His fastball is fairly normal with average velocity in the mid to high 90’s but it’s his slider that has served him well serving as an above average pitch value in four of his five starts. His changeup is very much ‘hit or miss’, when it’s on it’s quite effective but when he gets knocked around, this is usually the culprit and where his command can be tested.

His five starts at the MLB level have been lights out. He won three of his five starts beating Colorado AT Colorado (and allowing 0 ER), beating Baltimore and Texas as his other two wins. He suffered a loss to San Francisco allowing two runs in two innings (his one bad start) and had a no decision against Houston allowing one ER across seven innings. He exceeded six strikeouts in half the starts where he pitched at least five innings. It’s not amazing but it’s a quality stat. Additionally he was able to curtail his walks issued as he allowed three in his first start working his way down to none in his final start against Houston. It became clear that he started at above average and was steadily improving with each start.

Why did Barria just get sent down?

He was sent down to the minor affiliate in Utah yesterday which had to be a difficult decision for manager Mike Scioscia. Despite being sixth in innings pitched on the team, Jaime leads the team in WHIP (1.03), is second on the team in wins (3) and ERA (2.13), ninth in strikeouts (20), ninth in walks issued (7) with just one HR allowed across his five starts.

He has better numbers than Shohei Ohtani in most of the categories outside of strikeouts and I point that out because that is almost the problem right now. Los Angeles starters (Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Shohei Ohtani, Tyler Skaggs and Nick Tropeano) all have sub 1.25 WHIP, all have at least one win, all have sub four ERA, all are allowing fewer than 1.25 home runs per nine innings, all are allowing fewer than 8.5 hits per nine, four out of the five have K/BB over 2.5, four of the five have a K per nine of 9.25+. In a nutshell, all of their pitchers have been above average this year creating no glaring hole where Jaime can step in.

Mike Scioscia said, “I don’t think anyone when they’re performing well would expect it. But there’s a difference in getting to the big leagues and then making footprints in the big leagues. Right now Jaime is obviously starting to make some footprints. But he’s not quite there yet. There are a lot of things that are out of his control.”

That last sentence tells me that despite all the makings of a starter there is more to the story here, whether it’s the Angels opinion of current contracts, finally having a healthy Andrew Heaney that they want to explore or maybe just letting Barria go back to AAA with a high vote of confidence for later in the year.

The final part of this equation is the farm system. Chris Rodriguez has a ways to go (currently sitting at A) but he has shown in his limited time, a strong propensity for striking out batters and allowing very few home runs. Griffin Canning is at AA and is pitching amazing through his first 27 innings pitched. He has a 1.95 ERA, allowing 6 runs with 30 strikeouts and 14 walks in his six starts. Finally, Jesus Castillo is at AA with a 4-2 record, a 3.06 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP. There is no shortage of quality arms coming up for Los Angeles currently.

Don’t give up hope

I like Jaime’s talent, his ability to minimize quality hits which culminates in a low ERA and WHIP, and his mental fortitude. I worry a bit about the command with his changeup and more imporantly the external factors (quality pitchers around the Angels system limiting his chances). I imagine he gets the nod should any of the current five starters get hurt. When that happens, he’s worth adding in 10+ team leagues. Or maybe you just hope this is true. Regardless, Barria is certainly someone worth watching as he moves forward.