Barto getting an opportunity with Rangers

Outfielder Aja Barto showed some promise with the AZL Rangers in 2008, batting .280 with 10 doubles and four home runs in 37 games. Lone Star Dugout features the 21-year-old native of Houston.

Aja Barto has been on the radars of scouts ever since his outstanding career at Houston's Stratford High School. The outfielder's All-State senior season, which included a .531 batting average and 12 home runs, enticed the Phillies to select him in the 14th round of the 2005 MLB Draft.

Barto passed on the Phillies' offer and instead chose to attend baseball power Tulane University. In addition to playing with the high-profile collegiate program, Barto spent two summers with the Cape Cod League's Falmouth Commodores. He was named to the Cape Cod League All-Star team while batting .277 with 15 steals and a .386 on-base percentage in 2007.

Although Barto entered his junior year with some momentum, the breakout season scouts had been expecting didn't quite come. The native Texan appeared in 50 games with the Green Wave this past season, hitting .274 with seven doubles, three home runs and 19 RBI.

The 2008 MLB Draft marked the second time Barto had been draft eligible, but his name was not called during the two-day event. Nearly all undrafted juniors return to school in hopes of being drafted after their senior season. That was not the case with Barto.

"After my junior year, I didn't get picked up," said Barto. "The draft didn't really work out the way I wanted it to. I was actually getting ready to go play summer ball in the Texas Collegiate League and Randy Taylor, the area scout, called my advisor and asked me."

Taylor wanted Barto to forego his senior season at Tulane in order to sign a free agent contract with the Rangers.

"I was just looking for the opportunity to play," he said. "[Taylor] had a great opportunity for me to come out here and play. He was the first one to come get me and I just took it. It has really been a great experience."

Barto has good speed, especially for his 6-foot-5 frame.
Barto's decision may have been unconventional, but he doesn't regret it for a second.

"I have been wanting to do this for a long time and I don't regret my decision," replied Barto. "Going to Tulane, it was a great school with great baseball and everything, but I made plans to come out my junior year whether I got drafted or not. This is what I have wanted to do."

The 21-year-old recently finished off a solid debut with the rookie-level AZL Rangers. In 37 games with the club, Barto batted .280 with 10 doubles, four home runs, and a strong .396 on-base percentage. Even though Barto got off to a hot start at the plate, he wasn't completely comfortable from the outset.

"When I came here, I don't even really know what my approach was," Barto said. "But I worked with Josue [Perez], the hitting instructor down here.

"I just tried to see a pitch. I tried to be aggressive early, but see a pitch I can handle and try to stay up the middle or the other way. I just want to have a good at-bat every time."

Barto believes his experience against elite competition in the Cape Cod League helped prepare him for life in pro ball.

"Playing over there definitely prepared me to play down here and hopefully in the upper levels," he said. "There is great talent over there. You've always got the best college talent over there during the summers. I think with the wooden bat, the pitching, the hitting, and just the type of play in general prepared me."

Like most talented outfielders, Barto played centerfield throughout his high school and collegiate career. But the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder moved to a corner position shortly after signing with the Rangers.

"Right field definitely," replied Barto when asked which position he's most comfortable at. "I've been playing there more and getting used to it. I've been learning the ropes out there."

Barto will likely continue working in right field when he attends the Rangers' Dominican instructional league, which begins shortly after U.S. instructs ends in mid-October.

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