Swinging for the fences in the latest edition of C’s Chat is 2022 Vancouver Canadians shortstop/third baseman Addison Barger.
When MLB Pipeline and Baseball America get around to revising the top 30 prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays system, it’s a safe bet that you will find Barger on those lists.
The 2018 sixth-round pick by Toronto out of King High School in Tampa, Florida has enjoyed a breakout season with Monty’s Mounties in 2022, leading to a July 11 promotion to Double-A New Hampshire.
The 6-foot-0, 210-pound left-handed hitter from Bellevue, Washington still leads the C’s in batting average (.300), home runs (14), runs batted in (53) and runs scored (53).
The 22 year-old Barger served early notice in 2022 he was going to be a force to be reckoned with in the Northwest League. His first hit of the season was a two-run home run that keyed a comeback win in Spokane opening night April 8. Barger rattled off an 11-game hitting streak to start the year that included a bases-clearing double to give the C’s a win in Tri-City April 17. He homered and drove in six runs in a rout of Eugene May 14. A second inning home run from Barger was all Vancouver needed in a blanking of the Dust Devils May 17. He ended May and began June as the Northwest League Player of the Week May 30-June 5 as he hit .381 with two doubles, two homers and six RBI in a six-game series against Spokane at Nat Bailey Stadium. That was part of a 10-game hitting streak.
The month of June saw Barger reel off another 11-game hitting streak that included homers in back-to-back games against Eugene June 15 and June 17 with the latter dinger going off the left field fair pole at The Nat.
The Bellevue Basher finally made his debut at Everett Memorial Stadium after watching the AquaSox play as a kid on July 4 and celebrated with a two-run home run in his first at-bat. He went deep again against the Frogs July 9 before racking up three doubles and a walk in another win over the Seattle Mariners affiliate July 10 in what turned out to be his final game with Vancouver.
Barger has come a long way since his first season as a pro in 2018 with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays. Before receiving a $271,100 signing bonus from the Blue Jays, Baseball America compared Barger to another shortstop in the Toronto organization who had been with Vancouver.
“One of the best all-around players in the Tampa area, Barger has solid tools across the board but didn’t have a single plus tool until his arm strength improved this spring. It’s a 60-grade arm currently, but Barger gets the most out of the rest of his toolset as a sure-fielding shortstop with plus bat speed and feel to hit that gives him average raw power. Barger makes all the routine plays at shortstop and should do enough to stick at the position until someone with more tools comes along and pushes him to second base. He’s a smart player who understands the game and makes adjustments at a level that encourages scouts about his on-field makeup. There’s not a ton of upside with Barger because of his lack of any plus tool, but scouts have compared him to the Logan Warmoths of the world–someone who could end up at college and drastically improve his prospect status. A Florida commit, Barger has no real holes in his game and a hit tool that drives mid-90s velocity with regularity.”
Barger recorded an RBI single in his first game in 2018 against the GCL Pirates in Bradenton June 18. His first home run also came against the Bucs in Dunedin July 17. His best game was a home run and two doubles against the GCL Yankees West August 13. Despite a batting average of .194 in 49 games, Barger did draw a walk in over 11 percent of plate appearances with a .318 on-base percentage.
In 2019, Barger played 13 games with the Bluefield Blue Jays and slashed .283/.345/.434 before being placed on the restricted list. He did not play again until 2021 when his power continued to emerge as he slugged .492 with an .826 on-base plus slugging percentage. The highlight of the year was a 5-for-5 performance May 28 against Tampa in which he hit for the cycle, homering twice and driving in seven. That helped Barger earn Low-A Southeast League Player of the Week honours for May 25-30. He finished his year with Dunedin with another Player of the Week honour August 31-September 5 after crushing a grand slam against Palm Beach September 4.
After racking up 18 homers and 80 RBI in Florida, Barger received the call to join the C’s for the final week of the 2021 season in Hillsboro. In his first game with the club, he doubled in his second at-bat and followed up with an RBI single against the Hops September 14.
The 2021 season was the springboard to a breakout 2022 campaign for Barger. An early clue was provided when he took Blue Jays free agent hurler Kevin Gausman deep during an intrasquad game in spring training. Barger also got four at-bats during spring training and picked up a pair of hits, including an RBI double against current Blue Jay righty Anthony Banda during a game against Pittsburgh April 1. So far, Barger is also making a good impression with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. He has 10 hits in his first 22 at-bats in his first six games in the Eastern League.
C’s Plus Baseball chatted with Barger during the club’s Canada Day homestand against Spokane and prior to his first visit to Everett as a pro ball player. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
C’s Plus Baseball – What a start to the year you’ve had so far. You’re practically leading (the C’s) in every category. You look at the Canadians website, the only category you don’t lead is in stolen bases. What’s been the key to your success so far this year?
Addison Barger – Oh, man. Well, I just put in a lot of work in the off season to prepare me for the regular season obviously. And just working on my approach a lot, working on things mentally more so than physically.
CPB – You talk about your approach. What is your approach at the plate right now? What is your game plan when you step into the batter’s box?
AB – Crush fastballs.
CPB – That’s a pretty simple philosophy.
AB – Yeah, that’s it.
CPB – What is it about hitting here (at Nat Bailey Stadium)? It’s usually kind of a pitcher’s park but you seem to have no problem with clearing the big fence here in right field.
AB – No, I think the ball flies great here honestly. At least for me, but I can see the ball here really well compared to other ballparks in the league, especially. So I like hitting here a lot.
CPB – How was your first full season in Dunedin?
AB – It was great. It was long, tiring for sure. A lot hotter there so it was pretty uncomfortable. But no, it was good. It was a good experience to get that first full season out of the way.
CPB – And one of those games, you went 5-for-5 and hit for the cycle. What was going well for you that night?
AB – Yeah, that was crazy. I don’t know. I guess I was just really locked in. There’s nothing particular about that night but I had been swinging it. I just went into that game prepared and got the job done.
CPB – What’s it like when you’re in the zone? Does the ball seem bigger? Does it seem like a beach ball? How do you describe that feeling?
AB – I don’t really know how to describe it. You just ain’t missing, you’re just not missing pitches, like your swing feels the same and everything. Some balls, you know, you get a fastball in the zone, you foul back. Sometimes you don’t do that anymore. And you’re hitting everything hard. But other than that, it’s not really a feeling that I feel.
CPB – A couple of Player of the Week awards in Dunedin. You’ve had one this year. What does it mean to you to get that kind of recognition?
AB – Oh, it’s awesome. It means you did your job for the week offensively which you want to do every week so it’s a cool achievement.
CPB – I just wanted talk to about your draft experience when you went in the sixth round out of high school and you had a chance to maybe go to Florida. Why did you decide to turn pro instead of taking the college route?
AB – To be honest, I always wanted to play pro ball. I had no intention of actually going to school. I didn’t want to so it was an easy choice for me because I knew I wanted to go play pro ball.
CPB – How did the draft go down for you? Were you watching at home? Did you have a party or anything like that?
AB – Yeah, I was just at home with my family. We threw kind of like a little party the day after, but yeah, just at home keeping in contact with my area scouts and stuff, see what going on. And that was pretty much it. I was watching it.
CPB – Who was your signing scout?
AB – Matt Bishoff. He’s not with us anymore though. He’s with the Angels.
CPB – Did you have any idea it was going to be the Blue Jays or did you think it was going to be another team that was going select you?
AB – I knew it was going to be the Blue Jays at the time because I told them, ‘Yeah, I’ll sign.’ It could have been a different team but I wanted to go with the Blue Jays because I was living in Tampa so Dunedin is fairly close. It seemed like an easy adjustment to start there.
CPB – So you’re familiar with going to Dunedin. Did you ever watch spring training games or anything like that with the Jays?
AB – I didn’t really go to a lot of Blue Jays games. I went to a lot more Yankee spring training games just because they were closer to our house, about 15 minutes. But yeah, I watched a lot of spring training games with Tampa.
CPB – So a Yankees fan growing up?
AB – No, not at all. Seattle Mariners. Diehard Mariners fan.
CPB – You did grow up in Everett. Next week, you might get a chance to play in Everett unless (the Jays) call you up (to New Hampshire). I guess it would be kind of a mixed feeling. Sure you like to go up now, but what would it mean to you if you got a chance to play in Everett?
AB – Going to Everett. Yeah. that’s going to be awesome. I’m really excited for that because I did go to AquaSox games as a kid growing up so I always wanted to play there. It’s going to be pretty special.
CPB – Do you think you’re going to have a lot of success if you happen to play there because it’s a good hitter’s park. It’s definitely the Fenway Park of the Northwest League.
AB – Oh yeah, man. That field is tiny, especially for left-handed hitters. So I should have a fair amount of success there as long as I’m seeing it for sure.
CPB – If you are in Everett, will you have some family or friends to pay a visit?
AB – Yeah. I’ll have a lot of family there. Most of my family still lives in that area, so yeah, for sure.
CPB – The scouting report on you, the tools are above average. That’s what was said at the time. I believe there was a Logan Warmoth comp thrown your way by Baseball America. I don’t know if you had any chance to interact with Logan Warmoth who was here in 2017 but how would you describe yourself as a player?
AB – I wouldn’t describe myself as Logan Warmoth. I don’t know if I have a great comp in mind but more of a power-over-contact guy for sure. And not a ton of speed out of me but a good arm. I just think when I was like compared to like Logan Warmoth, I think that’s when I was about 40, 50 pounds smaller. So I was 160 pounds when I got drafted. I’m 210 now. So I’m a different human now. I look at myself as more of a reliable infielder that hits for power.
CPB – Shortstop or third? You seem pretty comfortable at both positions.
AB – Yeah. Don’t matter to me, man. I’ll play anywhere. Put me in right field, whatever. Just keep my bat in the lineup.
CPB – The one thing that has been said about you is your strong throwing arm. Obviously (you did) a lot of working out and that sort of thing but was that something you always had growing up?
AB – Yeah, I was always a smaller guy in high school. So even though I was 5-foot-2 as a sophomore in high school, I always took care of my arm. A lot of arm care, a lot of long toss. That’s something I prioritized a lot. It was arm strength. So that’s definitely something that I worked on a lot.
CPB – What would you say has been your best game this season when you look back? You’ve had a lot of home runs but is there any one moment that stands out for you so far?
AB – I don’t know if there’s a game I can recall but if I execute my approach and plan going into that bat, that’s a win. And as long as I’m doing that consistently, I’m happy. I think the last time we were here playing against Eugene, I had a homer. I forgot who was on the mound (June 15 vs. Wil Jensen) but I was sitting changeup the whole bat. I worked all the way to the 2-2 or 3-2 count and got that pitch finally and hit it out. So I executed my plan perfectly. So things like that I really like.
CPB – Definitely you have pull power but you’re showing you can go the opposite way. You did have an opposite field home run here that went off the foul pole, but that’s definitely been your approach, mostly its to right field.
AB – Yeah, I’m a pull guy for sure. No doubt about it. There’s a lot of hits that way so I don’t mind it.
CPB – I wanted to talk to you about spring training. You had a chance to get a little taste of action. How is that playing experience for you in spring training with Dunedin?
AB – Oh, it was cool. It was awesome. I mean, especially going to the big league games and stuff. That’s a cool experience around all the big leaguers. I was definitely a little nervous but it was really cool.
CPB – Did you have a chance to interact with anyone?
AB – Yeah, with most of the guys. All cool guys up there. Even though they’re big leaguers, they’ll treat you like you’re on the same level as them and I respect that. So yeah, it was cool.
CPB – You faced Kevin Gausman on one of the diamonds outside the Dunedin park and you took him deep and he tipped his hat to you. What did it feel like to homer off a guy such as Kevin Gausman?
AB – Yeah, that was really cool. I mean, I got my pitch and I executed, so yeah, that’s a plus that it was Kevin Gausman. That was pretty sick. That was really cool.
CPB – I just wanted ask I had read a story about you maybe thinking about switch-hitting. Is that something you’re still maybe considering?
AB – Yeah, it’s very possible, very possible. I can still swing it right-handed. So I’m considering and bringing it back maybe next year. We’ll see how the off-season goes. It’s kind of one of those things you have to feel out, take live AB’s and I have to be really comfortable with it before I start doing it. Although I know the bat speed and things like that are there already.
CPB – I just want to ask you about your routine. What is it that you do every day to get ready?
AB – I pretty much just sleep in as late as I can. Making sure I’m getting a lot of sleep take care of my body before the day begins, before practice starts. Mobility stretching, if I have a lift that day, I’ll take care of my lift and just get mentally prepared for the game, get ready to go. But there’s not one thing I do specific as far as routine goes.
CPB – The Player Development Complex in Dunedin. I know it’s been great for the pitchers but how’s it helped you as a hitter? There’s the Rapsodo machine, the Trackman – has that helped you out at all?
AB – Yeah, I think so. I mean, yeah, we have all the tools you could possibly need as a hitter are there. So we have like a hitting lab where you get slo-mo video, it tells you what you’re doing. It shows you everything that you could possibly need and more honestly. But for me, I like simplicity. So I just think about for me, this is just me, three things. You gotta be strong, (have) hand-eye coordination and timing. There’s really nothing else to it in my opinion.
CPB – So you’re not really concerned about launch angle, exit velocity or anything like that?
AB – I’m not an analytical guy at all. If you try to make everything simple, you’ll have a little more success.
CPB – Final question. Your goals for 2022 and beyond.
AB – Well, I’d like to go to Double-A at some point if I can. Other than that, I just want to stick to what I’m doing. Stick with the plan. As far as like numbers-wise, I would like to hit 25 or more homers and keep swinging it, that’s pretty much it.
- Uniform Numbers – Wore number 22 with Dunedin and 23 with Vancouver in 2021. Now wearing number 3 with New Hampshire.
- Infielder x 4 – Played all four infield positions with Dunedin in 2021, making his first 10 starts as a pro at first base.
- Instagram – @addisonbarger
- Walk-up Music – “BYOB” by System of a Down
Thanks a million again to Addison Barger for taking the time to chat and to C’s broadcaster Tyler Zickel for arranging it.