Dayton Moore has called pitching the currency of baseball, so while this may be a very hitter-heavy draft class at the top, the Royals may zig while others zag and be one of the first teams to select a pitcher with the #9 pick. Keith Law recently wrote that he heard the Royals may be interested in left-hander Brandon Barriera out of American Heritage High in Florida.
Barriera comes from the same high school in the Miami area that produced former Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. He is a thin, gangly lefty that only stands 5’11’, 175, but don’t let his size fool you. The 18-year-old regularly touches 96 mph on the radar gun and has been up to 98-99. MLB Pipeline writes he has “a low-80s slider that misses a lot of bats, and his changeup, which he sells with excellent arm speed, has the chance to be plus in the future.” Baseball America adds that his “slider features a lot of horizontal movement with late turn and sharp bite at its best, and he shows good feel to land the pitch for strikes. It’s a 2,500-2,600 rpm offering and routinely gets plus grades from evaluators.” They note he also throws a slower, mid-70s curve on occasion.
MLB Pipeline writes he “throws a ton of strikes and goes right after hitters” while Keith Law writes “scouts question whether he’ll get to consistent strikes.” Barriera is praised for his competitiveness on the mound with Prospects Live praising his “bulldog mentality.” Law writes he “doesn’t offer much projection, but he also doesn’t need it given his present stuff, and his build right now seems sufficient for him to stay a starter. “
Barriera is one of the top pitchers available, but he may be a bit of a reach at #9. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #15 prospect in the draft, Baseball America at #17, Prospects Live at #17, and Keith Law at #20. He is committed to Vanderbilt, so he may not be willing to cut an underslot pre-draft deal.
Teams can never have enough pitching, but high school arms are always a dicey proposition. The Royals would be doubling-down on their strategy last year of going with high school pitchers by going with Barriera, a very risky strategy for a club with little margin for error. Still, the lefty does show electric stuff with a deeper repertoire than prep pitchers usually show. Lefties that throw in the mid-to-upper 90s don’t grow on trees, and the Royals could grab the one of the best pitchers available in this draft.