Will LA Angels See a Sophomore Slump or Breakout Season from Jaime Barria?
By Vincent Page
While there has been a sufficient about of noise about other LA Angels pitchers, most notable Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney, but there is one more pitcher who has the potential to make the rotation elite in Anaheim.
When the LA Angels wrote Jaime Barria in for his debut start, they probably weren’t planning for him the first batter he faced to have a 21-pitch at-bat. While that was not the start one hopes for in their MLB career, Jaime Barria gave the Angels nothing but success the rest of the year.
While his walk and strikeout numbers were not great, Barria finished the year with a 3.41 ERA in 26 starts. One could make the argument that is largely due to the defense behind him (his FIP landed at 4.58 to finish the season), but that isn’t necessarily a knock on the young pitcher.
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For years, Matt Shoemaker was a staple in the Angels’ rotation. When healthy, he was one of the more reliable pitchers to come through Anaheim in recent memory. Him and Barria have a lot in common with the way they pitch.
Neither pitcher has elite “stuff”, meaning they don’t flash triple-digit fastballs or knee-buckling breaking balls. However, both are incredibly smart pitchers. They know how to get ground balls and fly balls, and their pitches don’t induce a high amount of hard contact.
Of course, allowing the ball to be put in play is always a risky strategy, which can lead to inconsistent games. However, Barria, who showed up to Spring Training noticeably slimmer, is the penultimate swing vote in the Angels rotation.
If he remains consistent with last season, or even improves his strikeout numbers while limiting walks, the Angels’ rotation becomes scary with him, Skaggs, and Heaney headlining.
However, if Barria regresses to an ERA closer to five, the Angels rotation suddenly becomes filled with wild cards behind their front two starters. Relying on Matt Harvey or Trevor Cahill to make a playoff push is a scary thought, but if Barria struggles it’s something the Angels will be forced to accept.
When looking for a breakout player on the Angels, Jaime Barria is the obvious choice. He broke out for Angels fans in 2018, but could make the entire MLB know his name if he follows up his rookie year with a dominant second campaign. However, sophomore slumps come just as often as breakout second years, and in Barria’s case, a season-long slump might drown the Angels’ chances of reaching the postseason for the first time in half a decade.