Blue Jays first-rounder Brandon Barriera dazzles in pro debut
Brandon Barriera got his first taste of minor-league action on Wednesday.
If you look a Toronto Blue Jays prospect ranking from a major outlet, you're going to find Brandon Barriera's name near the top.
Prior to the season, MLB Pipeline had him second on their list, while FanGraphs and Baseball America both ranked him third. That hype was based on his draft pedigree as the 23rd overall pick last season — and his performance as a high schooler — but without college statistics or pro experience, the southpaw remained fairly opaque to Blue Jays fans.
That changed a bit on Wednesday as the 19-year-old made his first appearance with Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays, absolutely dominating opposing hitters in his debut.
Barriera went four innings in the outing without conceding a hit against the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels, striking out six hitters and walking just one.
He only allowed five balls in play in his start. Four of them were on the ground, and the only flyball travelled at a leisurely 69.1 mph into the glove of right fielder Roque Salinas. His average exit velocity against was a pitiful 75.1 mph.
From a results standpoint, it's hard to ask for a better outing than one where a pitcher strikes out half the hitters he faces and allows soft contact to anyone able to get the bat on the ball.
More important to the Blue Jays will be how his stuff looked. The lefty's fastball averaged 93.5 mph and topped out at 95.8 mph, which is approximately in line with his pre-draft scouting reports. His slider generated seven whiffs on 11 swings, accounting for four of his strikeouts. He used his changeup just four times.
The biggest positive from this outing for Barriera is that his repertoire overmatched Florida State League opposition, which is 3.2 years older than the southpaw on average.
His command, on the other hand, was clearly a bit erratic, as many of his fastballs lived right in the middle of the plate or too far off of it to be competitive.
Similarly, his slider hugged the glove-side edge at times, but tended to be scattershot.
None of that is a significant red flag for Barriera. He turned 19 two months ago. Expecting him to have pinpoint command would be ludicrous.
It's just a reminder that the southpaw has a long road ahead of him before helping the Blue Jays at the major-league level. Barriera appears to have a bright future — and his pro debut reinforces that notion — but MLB Pipeline gives him an ETA of 2026 while FanGraphs has him pegged for 2027.