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Roster review: Aaron Barrett

Nov 22, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

USA Today Sports Images

Age on Opening Day 2016: 28

How acquired: 9th round pick, 2010 draft

MLB service time: 1 year, 144 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $514,200

Contract status: Likely arbitration-eligible (Super-2) in 2017, free agent in 2021

2015 stats: 40 G, 29.1 IP, 28 H, 15 R, 15 ER, 1 HR, 7 BB, 35 K, 1.193 WHIP, 3-3, 4.60 ERA, 2.21 FIP, 0.0 WAR

Quotable: “It stinks, obviously. But I know the return rate is good. I was in good care with Dr. Andrews, and I know that I’m going to come back even stronger.” — Aaron Barrett

2015 analysis: On the heels of an eye-opening rookie season, Barrett figured to hold a prominent role near the back end of the Nationals’ bullpen. But as was true of most members of that group, he never found a groove and couldn’t solidify his key role.

Barrett actually pitched better than the numbers suggested, though. Despite a hefty 4.60 ERA, he cut his walk rate in half from his rookie season (from 4.4 per 9 innings to 2.1 per 9 innings) while continuing to strike out batters at a good pace (10.7 per 9 innings).

Turns out his problem was physical. Barrett ultimately admitted he was pitching in pain most of the season. He landed on the DL in June with a biceps strain, then finally spoke up in August after being told he was being demoted to Class AAA Syracuse. An MRI revealed a torn elbow ligament, bone chips and a bone spur. He underwent Tommy John surgery and now faces a long road back from the injury.

2016 outlook: Barrett won’t figure into the Nationals’ plans for the majority of the season. It’s possible he won’t even return to pitch at all in 2016, if his timeline for recovery falls around the latter stages of the typical 12-to-18 month prognosis.

The track record for full recovery from Tommy John surgery is strong, and certainly the Nationals have guided many pitchers through the process. But it will be long, tedious road for Barrett, who probably won’t begin playing catch until shortly before spring training and won’t throw off a mound until the rest of his teammates have returned north for Opening Day.

If all goes well, Barrett could go on a rehab assignment next summer and then possible rejoin the Nationals’ rotation in August or September. How effective he is, and what role the club gives him at that point, remains to be seen.

  1. unkyd59 - Nov 22, 2015 at 8:30 AM

    Barrett will be an interesting story to follow, in’17. Two years removed from the heebie-jeebies of the playoffs in ”14, seasoned by the injury and long rehab, an with 3-4 years of control left, he could wind up as a serious improvement on even an elite bullpen…

  2. ArVAFan - Nov 22, 2015 at 9:03 AM

    My guess is that Aaron would have benefitted greatly from the 2016 medical staff and pitching coach a year ago. They probably would have (1) noticed that he was being warmed up and not used too frequently, (2) that he was hurting and hiding it which affected his effectiveness, and (3) may have shut him down and dealt with the bone chips and spurs before he needed TJ surgery.

    But here’s hoping that he does come back and lives up to his potential (which I agree is pretty high) under the new and improved medical and pitching staff.

    Hope I get to chat with him again in Viera, since it sounds as if he’ll be there, but not participating in the full drills.

  3. JayB - Nov 22, 2015 at 9:14 AM

    He is a real non-issue for the Nats and that is great news for the Nats!

  4. mwgchess - Nov 22, 2015 at 12:08 PM

    Any help for the bullpen will be great but Barrett still hasn’t got my complete trust. I still have nightmares of him blowing the NLDS. How do you throw a wild pitch on an intentional walk? Anyway he clearly has good stuff so If he can get the control down pat he will be a useful reliever.

  5. unkyd59 - Nov 22, 2015 at 12:31 PM

    “ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, citing a source, reported the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers are at the top of the pack for O’Day.”
    ——————–
    Love O’Day, but he wants 4 years, 7-8 per, and he’ll get it… At his age, I’m not really enthusiastic…

    • unkyd59 - Nov 22, 2015 at 12:32 PM

      7-8 million, per….

    • veejh - Nov 22, 2015 at 12:49 PM

      It’s not your money, so who cares?

    • virginiascopist - Nov 22, 2015 at 12:50 PM

      We MAY have an advantage in that O’Day’s wife is a D.C.-based journalist. I agree that the price is steep, but I’m not terribly worried about his age — relievers tend to age a little better than starters.

      As for the Dodgers, they should concentrate on the FA market for starting pitching and use their best trade chip, Puig, to get some good relievers back.

    • ArVAFan - Nov 22, 2015 at 1:02 PM

      I like it, just based on the idea that if we are “in” on O’Day (and I was always in favor of him, once I saw him pitch), that means we are “out” on Papelbon.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Nov 22, 2015 at 5:44 PM

        You can never have too many closers…oh, wait…maybe you can.

      • ArVAFan - Nov 22, 2015 at 5:46 PM

        +1 to Eugene.

  6. npb99 - Nov 22, 2015 at 12:37 PM

    I find the proliferation of the K/BB stat a bit mystifying. You can be a great pitcher with a low ratio, if you don’t get many Ks. You can also be a bad pitcher with a high ratio, because this stat doesn’t measure either hits or runs.

    • letsallbaseball - Nov 22, 2015 at 3:07 PM

      Shouldn’t be that mystifying, it’s just one more piece of information. Won’t tell you if a pitcher is good or bad, but shed a little light on their performance. No one should ever look at K/BB without looking at the rest of the numbers.

      • npb99 - Nov 22, 2015 at 8:09 PM

        The stat doesn’t mystify me – it’s overuse does. I agree it’s just one more piece of information, but it’s trotted out very frequently in evaluating a pitcher, e.g. Stras, as if it were one of the very core indicators of a pitcher’s effectiveness.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Nov 22, 2015 at 5:47 PM

      Agree it’s only one piece of data for pitchers in general, but for relievers — especially 8th and 9th inning types — it’s a particularly important one. You don’t want base runners and you don’t want balls in play.

      • npb99 - Nov 22, 2015 at 8:06 PM

        You can have lots of balls in play and lots of baserunners even with a high ratio of Ks to BBs. A pitcher who gives up very few walks, strikes out fairly many hitters, and gets lit up like a Christmas tree in between, will have an excellent K/BB ratio.

  7. letswin3 - Nov 23, 2015 at 3:38 PM

    I still have a problem with pitchers who hide pain. I know, I know, lots of them have been known to do it, but what is there to be gained that couldn’t have been enhanced by getting needed attention?

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