Lance McAlister

Lance McAlister

Lance McAlister covers everything in Cincinnati sports! Host of sports talk on Cincinnati News Radio 700WLW and ESPN 1530!Full Bio


The Reds player facing the most pressure in 2023

Photo: Getty Images

The Reds player facing the most pressure in 2023:

Just two years ago Jose Barrero appeared on a track to be the Reds shortstop of the future. Two years later, the clock could be ticking on his future in the organization.

What happened? A lot.

His prospect path of turbulence started in late 2020. Despite having only played at High-A (104 games), the Reds called him up in late August of the 60 game Covid season. They tossed him into the ML deep end and he sank, hitting just .194 in 68 plate appearances. He was clearly overmatched and overwhelmed. He had not business being there.

Then he broke out in 2021. In just 85 games at Double-A and Triple-A, he hit 19 homers, stole 16 bases and hit .303 with a .380 on-base percentage and .919 OPS. He was named the Reds Minor League Player of the Year. He was promoted to Cincinnati on August 16. But after that breakout season he sat more than he played....getting just 56 plate appearances the final 42 games of the season, hitting just .200 in 56 plate appearances. What was the point of calling him up if they were not going to play him?

His 2022 season was a disaster from jump. He broke his hamate bone and underwent surgery late in spring training. He never got his season on track, hitting just .209 in 55 games at Triple-A Louisville and then just .152 in 48 games with the Reds.

Barrero went to work on revamping his swing this offseason. The hope is the new swing has leveled out to allow for more consistent contact and to make him a line drive, gap to gap hitter. The results have been encouraging this spring: .273/.333 in 33 at-bats, but with 14 strikeouts. As Jeff Brantley told me on Sports Talk, Barrero appears more confident and at ease.

So, what now?

The doubts are fair, but the sample size still remains small. He's played in just 93 ML games. hitting .170 with an alarming strikeout rate of 39.9-percent.

I'd argued that if Reds haven't botched his development, they've certainly hindered it. That can't happen. Not when the organization's future will be determined by the development of their current boatload of prospects. I've had someone close to the organization talk about hoping other prospects don't get 'Barrero-ed' by the Reds.

It may not be now or never, but it is clearly go time for Barrero. A check of his rearview mirror shows a hard charging Elly De La Cruz....and further down the road Edwin Arroyo.

Fans tend to get 'prospect fatigue' when they hear about a guy long enough without seeing something to believe. But he's still just young. He turns 25 in two weeks. He was a Baseball America Top 100 prospect in 2021 (79) and 2022 (33).

You'd like to think that the organization and fans have more patience with prospects that struggles than to close the book and move on after just 298 ML plate appearances. The Reds have dabbled with Barrero in centerfield, wanting to find additional ways use to his athleticism and to create a Plan B scenario. The Reds don't exactly have a centerfield prospect on the verge of arriving in Cincinnati.

Barrero likely won't ever hit .300, but he can certainly flash leather in the field. Can he cut down his strikeouts enough to hold down a starting shortstop job? Will it be for the Reds?

That's pressure.

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