The pitcher may return to the Washington Nationals after two injuries and refusing an earlier demotion. Aaron Barrett pitched two seasons in DC.
SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports the two sides are talking about bringing the 28-year-old righty back to Washington following a rash of injuries. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in September of 2015, he fractured his elbow last summer and needed another operation. He has yet to pitch professionally since undergoing TJ.
A closer-in-training in the minors, Barrett pitched for the Nats for two seasons. Before those injuries shut him down, he made the postseason roster after a strong 2014 campaign and pitched in 40 games in 2015. A successful rookie campaign saw him twirl 40.2 innings in 50 games with a solid ERA of 2.66.
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Although that number jumped to 4.60 in 2015, his WHIP dropped from 1.303 to 1.193 in 2015 as his BB/9 rate fell from 4.4 to 2.1. His hits-per-9 rose from 7.3 to 8.6, but a jump is not unusual right before an injury. To be fair, Barrett’s sample sizes on statistics are small due to his relief work.
With Double-A Harrisburg in 2013, Barrett emerged as a potential closer. In 51 games, he saved 26 games for the Eastern League Nationals, with a stingy 2.50 ERA and 1.093 WHIP. Promoted to Triple-A Syracuse to start 2014, his 10.1 scoreless innings earned him a promotion to Washington that summer.
A strikeout machine, he fanned 84 in 70 major-league innings before the injury and 213 in 163 minor-league frames. Barrett allows few walks, 25 non-intentional major-league passes, and keeps the ball in the yard. In 244 professional innings, only 12 balls left the yard in fair ground.
Barrett mixes a fastball around 94 with a mid-80s slider, according to FanGraphs, and rarely tosses a changeup in the low-80s. He relies on the fastball over 60 percent of the time and keeps the ball on the ground when batters make contact. Roughly 45 percent of contact stays rolling instead of in the air.
Granted free agency after this season by the Nationals—Barrett refused demotion to Syracuse—it is hard to see where he has a guaranteed spot with the Nats going into Spring Training.
His numbers are good enough to pitch in the big leagues, but coming off two injuries requiring surgery in the last 18 months, durability and confidence are issues to worry about.
If healthy, his stuff can make a healthy contribution for a bullpen with questions. Barrett enjoyed his time with the Nats and is entering the prime years of his career. Yet, the road back from double surgery is long. In order for Washington to feel comfortable in his return, they will need assurances he would accept a demotion if needed.
If it does not happen with the Nats, Barrett is too good not to break camp somewhere on a 25-man roster. Hopefully, it is with the Nationals.