This one may be a controversial take, as Jaime Barria has already technically had a breakout season. During his rookie season in 2018, he had a record of 10-9 and posted a 3.41 ERA, 1.268 WHIP, 4.58 FIP, and a 6.8 K/9 over 129.1 innings pitched. However, the following season he had regressed significantly, posting a record of 4-10 with a 6.42 ERA, 1.440 WHIP, and a 6.23 FIP over 82.2 innings pitched. Since then he has been strapped for opportunities, being removed from the rotation and sent down to AAA and recalled for sporadic spot starts. In 2021 however, Barria has the skillset to potentially breakout and solidify himself as a legitimate member of the Angels rotation.
A lot has to occur for that to happen. As it currently stands, according to the Angels’ depth chart on Fangraphs, Barria is listed as the fifth starter. However, they currently do not have Shohei Ohtani listed despite his expectation to rejoin the rotation next season. If Maddon intends to go with a 6-man rotation, Barria would fill that sixth spot. However (yes, another one), the Angels’ are expected to be entrenched in the pitching market this offseason, potentially signing one or two top free agent starters. Even on his first day on the job, Perry Minasian echoed that sentiment.
If and when the Angels add pieces to the rotation, Barria would most likely be the odd man out. Being an Angels fan most of my life, I know seasons don’t always go according to plan, in fact, they almost never do. The opening day rotation seldom remains intact for the duration of the long season. If an Angels starter goes down with an injury or underperforms, Barria could slide in and potentially force his way into future conversations.
Another way Barria could get an opportunity is if the Angels fail to sign or acquire quality starting pitching. In fact, two of the big names have already exited the already thin market, as Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman have both accepted their qualifying offers. Once the riot of Angels fans cools down, and Angel Stadium is rebuilt, fans might actually grow to love Barria. Although I wouldn’t recommend the Angels go this route, I will probably actually join that riot. Minasian has a tough offseason ahead of him, but it is almost a guarantee that they will emerge on the other side with 1 or 2 new starting pitching arms, leaving Barria’s only chance to prove himself in the case of an injury.
Given the Angels’ history of bad starting pitching health luck, it is unfortunately likely that one or more may go down for a significant period of time. Obviously, that would be terrible, but Angels fans should be assured that they have a solid option in Barria and that he is ready to have a breakout season if given the opportunity.
Barria had very limited chances in the shortened 2020 campaign (5 starts, 2 relief appearances, and 32.1 innings), and in which he put up respectable numbers, a 3.62 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 3.65 FIP, and 7.5 K/9. While still a small sample size, the numbers are promising and show he is ready to put his sophomore slump behind him.
If everything aligns in Barria’s favor, he would be a solid asset to the back of the rotation. The strikeout numbers aren’t elite, but they are definitely respectable for a starting pitcher. What impresses me most about Barria is his ability to miss barrels. Opposing hitters only found barrel against him 3.2% of the time, which puts him in the top 6% of the league. Looking deeper into his statcast numbers, it suggests he was even better than his 2020 numbers. His expected weighted on-base average (.254 xwOBA), expected earned runs against (2.90 xERA), and expected weighted on-base average on contact (.285 xwOBACON) are elite and puts him within the top 9% of the league. Just for reference, his xwOBA puts him ahead of Christian Javier, Brandon Woodruff, Max Fried, Yu Darvish, and yes, even Dylan Bundy.
Whatever direction the Angels decide to go in this offseason, I just hope one way or another that Barria is given a shot. I truly believe he is due for a legitimate breakout season and is able to cement his position in the Angels rotation for years to come.