Jacob Barnes, RHP, Brewers
The past: A former 14th-round pick who posted a 5.78 ERA at Florida Gulf Coast College, Barnes is a converted starter who took six years to reach Triple A (and the majors) last year. He is not to be confused with the narrator and protagonist of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.
What’s new: Life in the bullpen is good for the 27-year-old Barnes. Like many converted starters, his stuff has played up out of the bullpen and he doesn’t have to worry about throwing a third pitch. His fastball and power slider are plenty good enough to face hitters just one time around each outing.
The April breakout: He has thrown 11 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run while punching out 14 batters and holding hitters to a .103 batting average.
Sustainability Factor: High. Like Edwin Diaz and Ken Giles, Barnes is perfectly suited for today’s bullpen-oriented game. He snaps off 91 mph cutter/sliders 61% of the time (he has hit 93.5 with it) and 96 mph fastballs 39% of the time (he has maxed out at 99.6 mph). In other words, he is flat out throwing the tar of the baseball on every pitch and does so in short doses. He has yet to face more than five batters in an outing this year.
(Barnes calls his slider a cutter, but it has such nasty, late tilt to it that it resembles a power slider.)
Moreover, Barnes’ power stuff is even more effective because he is a long-strider, cutting the distance between his release point and home plate by about seven inches compared to league average—which makes his power stuff get on top of hitters that much more. It would not be a surprise if Barnes supplants Neftali Feliz as Milwaukee’s closer later this year.