All in all, Yankees right-handed reliever Johnny Barbato, our No. 35 prospect – who could, as Dick Clark and Rick Dees used to say, rise up the charts with a bullet – had an excellent 2015 season.
Which is why the guy the Yankees acquired from San Diego just over a year ago (Dec. 29, 2014) was added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster recently. The club learned its lesson with Tommy Kahnle, whom Barbato has been compared to, as both are hard-throwing right-handers.
At the time of the trade, Barbato, a 23-year-old native of Miami,who was a sixth-round pick of the Padres out of Felix Varela High, had a question about his right elbow. The Padres had shut him down halfway through the 2014 season.
Several pundits, most of whom had no idea who Barbato or his situation was, quickly condemned the trade because of the elbow report. Both the player and the Yankees knew better.
“I had a strain, and rest took care of it,’’ said Barbato upon his arrival at Double-A Trenton last season. “I’m ready to pitch whenever asked.
“I love to compete and I love to have fun playing the game. However I can help whatever team I am on win makes me happy.’’
Barbato, at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, throwing a fastball that sat mostly in the 94-95 range and a knuckle curve, started solidly for Trenton. He quickly established himself as an effective, multiple-inning reliever.
He also finished a pair of games and seemed in control of things. Then matters got a bit out of control. As the weather warmed, his control got cold and he allowed four home runs and had a few rough weeks.
“My stuff is all still there,’’ Barbato said. “I’m just not putting everything where I want to. It’s tough, but this can happen. I know I can get this straightened out with some good bullpens.
“I trust my stuff.’’
Barbato did get things back in gear, was again effective in Trenton and earned a promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after amassing a 2-2, 4.04 mark in 26 appearances and 42.1 innings with the Thunder.
He was spectacular with the RailRiders, going 4-0, 0.36 in 14 appearances and finishing five games and earning three saves. In taming International League hitters, he put together the best stretch in his career with a strikeout-walk ratio of 26-11 and allowing just one run in 25 innings.
Like all relievers, he just had a stretch where mechanics or release point needed a small adjustment. He trusted his stuff. The Yankees also limited his innings well.
Something to watch in Spring Training is how the Yankees’ young righty-lefty, hard-throwing tandem of Barbato and James Pazos perform. Both easily could end up in the Yankees bullpen in 2016.