DENVER – In a showcase featuring many of baseball’s future stars, Cincinnati Reds prospect Jose (Garcia) Barrero fit right in.
Barrero pummeled a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning, the first hit of the game, and he scored twice to help the National League squad to an 8-3 victory in the Futures Game at Colorado’s Coors Field. He was a candidate for MVP honors before Chicago Cubs prospect Brannen Davis homered twice.
It was a special moment for those who know Barrero. He changed his last name in May to honor his mother, who died from a COVID-related illness.
"That was a real cool moment to see," said Reds prospect Nick Lodolo, who pitched a scoreless inning. "It gave me goosebumps in the bullpen because you know what's gone on with Jose. That was a big moment."
The 23-year-old Barrero was recently promoted to Triple-A Louisville before he was added to the Futures Game as an injury replacement. Facing Texas Rangers pitcher Cole Winn, the No. 15 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, Barrero crushed a hanging curveball in a 2-2 count.
It was a no-doubter off the bat and Barrero celebrated by raising his right arm as he rounded first base. The ball traveled 426 feet, according to Statcast, and left his bat at 104 mph.
"It's a really big opportunity to play out here," Barrero said in Spanish. "It feels good to represent the team, the Cincinnati Reds, my family and my country."
The power wasn't surprising after he put on a solid display in batting practice. He drew a five-pitch walk in his second plate appearance and fielded one ball successfully at shortstop.
"I'm always working hard on everything," Barrero said, noting he's working on his defense and hitting mechanics.
Barrero soaked in the Futures Game experience. He ran to the left-field stands during the other team's batting practice to hug family members. Before he approached his family, he held out his arms wide from about 40 feet away, as if he was saying, "We're here!"
He played in 24 big-league games last season, jumping from High-A to the Majors when the Reds needed defensive help at shortstop. He struggled offensively with 13 hits and 26 strikeouts in 67 at-bats (.194 batting average).
The Reds were determined to give him time to develop offensively this season, so he opened the year at Double-A Chattanooga. He hoped to win the starting shortstop job out of spring training, but he didn’t let it affect how he played at the start of the minor league season in May.
In 40 games at Double-A, he hit .300 with nine doubles, six homers, 28 RBI and 31 runs. He posted a .367 on-base percentage.
"I feel great," Barrero said. "I know I struggled a lot last year. Last year is last year, but thanks to God, I feel good and I'm looking forward to keep getting better."
Lodolo, rated as the top prospect in the Reds’ farm system by MLB.com, retired all three batters he faced.
The left-handed Lodolo entered with one out in the third inning and he induced a lineout to right field against Bobby Witt Jr., the No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft, and a lineout to third base against Jasson Dominguez, the New York Yankees’ top prospect and the youngest player in the Futures Game.
Returning for one batter in the fourth inning, Lodolo struck out Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez with a sharp 83-mph curveball. Rodríguez is a consensus top-five prospect in the sport.
Lodolo reached 97 mph with his fastball and drew two whiffs in 13 pitches.
"I’m happy with where I’m at," Lodolo said. "Obviously, I want to get better. There are still things that I can still do better. But the improvements that I wanted to make, especially after last year at Prasco and what I was doing in spring training, has carried over to the season and I’m happy with it."
Lodolo has been dominant at Double-A, posting a 2-0 record and 0.84 ERA in seven starts. He’s struck out 46 and walked six in 32 innings. Really, the only thing that has stopped him is a persistent blister on his left pointer finger.
He was shut down from throwing for three weeks to allow the blister to heal before making a two-inning start last week. He expects to throw three or four innings Saturday in his next start.
"I was happy I still felt good on Tuesday and hopefully that carries over," Lodolo said. "Hopefully, no more setbacks from here. Hopefully, we just keep going forward."