New York Yankees rookie relief pitcher Johnny Barbato has opened his major league career with 2.1 scoreless bullpen innings against the Astros and Tigers, allowing a single hit with no walks and fanning five. Where did Barbato come from and what may his future look like?
Barbato was originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in the sixth round in 2010, from high school in Miami, Florida. He could have gone several rounds higher but he had a University of Florida scholarship and was considered a difficult sign. It took $1,400,000 to sign him and he didn't make his pro debut until 2011.
Said pro debut resulted in a 4.89 ERA with a 51/30 K/BB in 57 innings in the Northwest League. He showed a good fastball but erratic command and inconsistent secondary pitches. In 2012 the Padres converted him to the bullpen and he was much more effective, posting an 84/31 K/BB with a 1.84 ERA in 74 innings in Low-A. His ERA spiked to 5.01 in the California League in 2013 but he did save 14 and posted an 88/33 K/BB in 88 innings.
A strained elbow limited Barbato to 31 innings in Double-A in 2014 but he was very effective, with a 2.87 ERA and a 33/10 K/BB. Traded to the Yankees for Shawn Kelley that fall, he split 2015 between Double-A and Triple-A, combinging for a 2.67 ERA with a 70/25 K/BB in 67 innings.
Barbato is a 6-1, 235 pound right-hander born July 11, 1992. He throws hard, averaging 94 MPH with his four-seam fastball with peaks at 96. He has a hard slider in the 80s and a softer curve in the upper 70s, giving him access to all the velocity slots between 77 and 96 MPH.
This video is almost a year old but gives the general idea.
Barbato's command can be erratic but it is greatly improved from his days in rookie ball. He looks ideally-suited for the middle relief role and we should expect him to perform well.