Name: Johnny Barbato
DOB: July 11, 1992
Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.
Fastball. While Barbato won't hit 100 mph like some of the elite power pitchers he is absolutely a pure power pitcher. He will sit anywhere from 93-96 mph with his power four-seam fastball and does so with one of the smoother and more effortless deliveries around, and that makes his fastball quite deceptive too. He won't top out much higher than that, actually right at 97 mph, but as he proved in 2015 he does have the ability to sit right around 96 mph pretty consistently the deeper he gets into the season after he's been stretched out. While the velocity is clearly a plus tool, his command is more on the average side of things. He can tend to miss a little too high in the strike zone but when he makes the adjustment and focuses more on the lower half he is one of the more difficult pitchers to barrel up.
Other Pitches. Many analysts focus on Barbato's plus fastball when in actuality his best pitch is his plus curveball. He can spin the breaking ball with the best of them and when he's getting behind it consistently it's a true power curveball, sitting anywhere from 77-80 mph with impeccable 12 to 6 late-bite diving action. Like his fastall, however, he can have bouts of inconsistent control of his curveball where he leaves a few too many up in the zone but when it's on it is essentially unhittable. Where Barbato made the most progress in his first season with the Yankees last year was the rapid development of his changeup. It was an okay offering entering the system, probably grading out as an average big league offering, but it showed above average or even better potential in 2015. It has the desired fade and depth, and the more he threw it the better he could command it. Ironically, his third pitch, the changeup is the pitch is the one he can command consistently the best.
Pitching. Barbato's style on the mound isn't hard to figure out at all. In fact, it's right in your face; he's up there to overpower hitters even though he has the kind of deep repertoire to keep hitters guessing. His approach is very much full-attack mode. However, he will struggle at times and sometimes even for long stretches pitching ahead in counts consistently and it's because his command can evade him. When he misses he usually misses up in the strike zone, not enough to tempt batters to swing necessarily but just enough for him to fall behind in counts a little too often. The good news is he has the kind of wicked stuff to get himself out of jams and, a high-makeup, highly intelligent hurler, he has learned to make quicker adjustments to get subsequent pitches down. There is still room to improve though from a command standpoint but his insatiable thirst to get better leaves many scouts believing it is an aspect that will continually get better.
Projection. Armed with three above average to plus big league pitches, stuff-wise Barbato has a starter's repertoire, plain and simple. However, with a killer instinct he absolutely has a power reliever's mentality and approach. The bigger the situation and the tighter the pressure the more he thrives. In fact, statistically he is much more effective with runners on or in scoring position with two outs than he is when the bases are empty. He still has to learn to employ that same kind of high-pressure approach in all situations to help himself avoid getting into jams and keep that consistent high intensity focus throughout his appearances but he clearly not only has the ceiling of an eventual big league setup man or closer but one of the better chances of reaching that ceiling too. While there is a difference in the type of fastballs they throw, Barbato compares very favorably to former Yankee relief prospect and current Pittsburgh Pirates closer Mark Melancon. Like Melancon, Barbato won't hit triple digits with his fastball but he has the killer curveball, the reliable changeup, and the great makeup to thrive in the back-end of a big league bullpen. A little bit more focus and subsequent more consistent command would make it all the more likely.
ETA. 2016. Barbato is big league ready right now. However, the big league bullpen for the Yankees is extremely crowded at the current time. Even though Barbato was overpowering in his late-season Triple-A trial last year he seems ticketed back to Scranton in 2016 to further harness his command. Should he pitch just as well there as he did last season the Yankees will have to find room for him in the Bronx in short order.