After arriving to a crowded outfield in Vermont to begin short-season play, Oakland A's outfield prospect Luis Barrera has become accustomed to fighting for every bit of playing time that he gets this season. That’s been no different at Beloit, where the triumvirate of Skye Bolt, Justin Higley and Brett Siddall has been established as regulars in Snappers' manager Fran Riordan’s lineup.
Just as he did during a 41-game tear in short-season ball, all Barrera has done is hit since stepping foot in the Midwest League.
"The first competition I encountered was with my teammates, because at Vermont there were like six outfielders,” said Barrera through interpreter and Beloit hitting coach Juan Dilone. “I had to be one of the best and if I wanted a chance to get out to Beloit, I had to be out there playing.
"Another thing I had in my mind at Vermont was that I don't want to finish here. I wanted to do whatever it took, do the work I needed to do to be a better player in order to move up a level and compete at Beloit."
It was hard for the A's front office to hold Barrera in short-season ball for much longer, especially when he posted a slash line of .321/.379/.421 across 159 at-bats with the Lake Monsters. Twelve of Barrera’s 51 hits went for extra bases and he added five stolen bases in seven attempts.
The 20-year-old native of the Dominican Republic has done much of the same since joining the Snappers, posting a .327/.358/.510 line and racking up five mult-hit performances in his first 13 games. Three of those came in a four-game series against Wisconsin last week in which he was a combined 6-for-17 with 11 total bases.
Thus far, Barrera has gotten by with a pretty simple approach.
"Since I got here, the pitching has been better and they're more consistent in the strike zone," he said. "I want to keep doing what I'm doing right now, which is staying in the middle of the plate and away. I can run into one every now and then, but I don't have that in mind right now. I want to spray the ball all over the field."
He’s also done his fair share of homework on opposing teams with the increased technology that’s available.
"I want to be one of the best on the field and move up as quickly as I can," Barrera said. "I'm facing better pitching, but am also learning about them through all of the reports. That gives me an even better edge than when I was in Vermont."
Barrera, who signed with the A's as an international free agent as a 16-year-old in 2012, did not show much offensively in two seasons with the A’s Dominican Summer League team. In fact, he didn’t post a season average above the Mendoza Line in 2013 or 2014.
However, he made significant progress last summer in the AZL, hitting .287 with a .344 on-base percentage. He’ll head back to the desert following the completion of the 2016 season to participate in the A's fall Instructional League camp.
"I'll be working on my separation and load down there,” Barrera said. "Sometimes I get a little leg kick and I know when I start doing stuff like that I lose my path. I also need to work on my pitch recognition and being in a strong position to hit."
If Barrera continues to hit as he has the past two seasons, he will put himself in a strong position to play his age-21 season in High-A with the Stockton Ports.