“I’m naturally a right-handed hitter, and truly switch-hit all through highschool,” defined Barger, who now hits completely from the left aspect. “On the time I began hitting left-handed, round 10 years previous, I used to be obsessive about Japanese gamers and the Japanese type of hitting. A giant leg kick was a part of that, and it’s one thing I mimicked. It simply caught with me.”
That’s to not recommend the 22-year-old infielder profiles equally to the Japanese icon and erstwhile Seattle Mariner that he grew up watching in Bellevue, Washington. That aforementioned large leg kick is one level of distinction; whereas extra pronounced throughout his NPB days and at instances early in his MLB profession, Ichiro’s was by no means as excessive because the one Barger presently employs. And Barger isn’t any Ichiro-like slasher. The long run Corridor of Famer had a swing designed to slash line drives into the opposite-field hole. Barger’s M.O. is now the inverse. Certainly, as evidenced by the 26 residence runs he hit throughout three ranges, Barger is a basher.
“I’m a fairly pull-heavy hitter,” mentioned Barger previous to a current Arizona Fall League sport. “My objective is to hit the ball over the wall. I need to do injury. If it’s to proper subject, it’s to proper subject, and if it’s to left subject, it’s to left subject. However after I’m having success, I’m normally pulling lots of balls.”
His general physique of labor this yr was eye-opening. In 526 plate plate appearances break up between Excessive-A Vancouver, Double-A New Hampshire, and Triple-A Buffalo, Barger totaled 61 extra-base hits whereas logging a .308/.378/.555 slash line and a 152 wRC+. Improved physicality and a willingness to put money into his future every performed a giant half in his emergence as one in every of Toronto’s most promising prospects.
“A whole lot of work has gone into it,” Barger mentioned. “I’ve gone from a man who was 155-160 kilos at 18-19 years previous to a man who’s 215 kilos. I’m really nearer to 200 proper now — it’s been a protracted season and I’m somewhat depleted — however I’m rather a lot larger and stronger than I used to be a number of years in the past.”
He’s additionally a hitter who has improved his plate self-discipline and speak to price. Whereas he discovered his 2021 energy manufacturing — 18 residence runs in 374 Low-A plate appearances — passable, his chase price and tendency to swing and miss have been one other story. That’s the place investing in his future got here into play.
“I knew that I wanted to work on that a part of my sport, so final offseason I went out and purchased an iPitch,” mentioned Barger, who’s presently taking part in for the AFL’s Salt River Rafters. “In case you’re not acquainted with these, it’s a machine that throws every kind of pitches. You may program in a pitcher and be very particular with pitch sorts, pitch shapes — issues you can’t do together with your normal Hack Assault. I did an entire lot of labor with the iPitch, and it’s undoubtedly a giant cause I had extra success this yr.”
His swing and setup remained the identical, though the latter modified over the course of the 2020 pandemic-canceled marketing campaign. Barger had beforehand employed a large stance, however in need of “one thing that will purchase me extra time with my leg kick,” he got here into the 2021 season with a narrower base.
Toronto’s hitting coaches and coordinators have been protecting an in depth watch on the teen’s mechanics, serving to be certain that he’s being environment friendly when turning on pitches. Barger admits an inclination to “solid somewhat bit,” which necessitates the occasional must tighten up his stroke. As a rule, that adjustment comes on the request of his mentors. Barger professes to hardly ever take into consideration mechanics — “I actually don’t even discuss them in the course of the offseason” — preferring as an alternative to do what come naturally, and work solely on his energy and his bat pace.
His arm energy is his finest attribute defensively. A shortstop who additionally sees time at third base, Barger pitched in highschool and was “as much as 95 [mph]” in his senior yr. However he’s by no means envisioned himself on a big-league mound. “That’s by no means been a objective,” mentioned Barger. “I’ve at all times wished to hit.”