San Bernardino, California —— When the prospect-filled Futures Game takes place on Sunday as part of Major League Baseball‘s All-Star Weekend in Miami, Florida, the Los Angeles Angels will be represented by right-handed pitcher Jaime Barria, a 20-year-old prospect from Panama who has split his time in 2017 between the High-A Inland Empire 66ers and the Double-A Mobile BayBears.
In fifteen total starts so far this year entering play on Sunday, July 2, Barria is 5-4 with a 2.02 ERA and 76 strikeouts against just 16 walks and 63 hits in 89.0 innings pitched. That includes his most recent four starts in his debut at Double-A, where Barria has allowed only 15 hits and two earned runs in 23.2 innings pitched down in Mobile. He’s quickly proven himself adept at adjusting to the toughest transition in baseball despite being just 20 years old.
I got a good look at Jaime Barria earlier this summer when he was still pitching for Inland Empire; below, Baseball Census has video of the Los Angeles Angels pitching prospect, as well as our scouting notes and observations. For an ever deeper look ahead of the Futures Game, please click here to read our full scouting report on Barria from April.
MLB Futures Game Video: Jaime Barria, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
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MLB Futures Game Notes: Jaime Barria, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
Jaime Barria sits 90-93 mph with his fastball, a four-seamer that is straight but very well-commanded down in the zone. His overhand release point and plus command give him great plane, and even though the pitch doesn’t have natural sink or run, it’s tough to square up and accounts for his .196 opponents’ batting average this year. He couples it with a hard curve (79-83 mph) that I’d be more inclined to call a slider if not for the fact that it has more vertical depth than horizontal movement. There’s a tight, quick, late break on the curve, and thanks to his arm angle and plane it’s nearly straight down when it gets on hitters. It’s a tough pitch to recognize and react against when it’s hard and at the bottom of the zone. Barria’s third pitch is a circle change that sits 78-82 mph and has good hump—no doubt a serviceable offering and a good look against lefties.
I’ve mentioned this before, but Jaime Barria works very quickly and reminds me quite a bit of Texas Rangers pitching prospect Ariel Jurado (watch 2017 Jurado game video here) in the way that he tunnels everything and thrives at the knees. When Barria is up in the zone, he can be hittable without run or plus velocity. Thankfully, Barria’s command profile is strong enough that he rarely ends up in the top of the strike zone, and he has exceptional feel for his entire repertoire at the knees. That’s a unique and polished trait for a 20-year-old kid.
MLB Futures Game Projection: Jaime Barria, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
With his release point and arm action, and that hard curveball that misses bats, it’s tempting to wonder what Jaime Barria would look like as a relief pitcher. He would conceivably add velocity in shorter stints and could become a fastball/curveball power set-up man one day. That’s not likely to happen, though—at least not in the next few years—because Barria’s command profile is just too strong to put him in the bullpen. He has enough in his repertoire (especially considering his plus command) to survive multiple times through a lineup, and he’s obviously taking well to Double-A in what can be a difficult environment for young pitchers.
Organizational context matters here, too. The Los Angeles Angels have one of the weakest farm systems in professional baseball, and so a pitcher like Jaime Barria should get several chances to prove himself as a potential big league rotation arm. His ceiling is the back end of the rotation as a control specialist with solid stuff and exceptional feel who can eat innings and live at the knees. If he doesn’t reach that ceiling, though, I think there’s the raw potential here for him to be an interesting back-end bullpen arm down the road, challenging hitters and living in the mid-90s with a hard breaking ball.