David Olmedo-Barrera hasn’t yet played a professional game, but you can already call him a postseason hero. He drilled two home runs on Monday night to lead Cal State Fullerton over Louisville and into the College World Series. From a broader perspective, you can describe Olmedo-Barrera’s entire 2015 season as “clutch.” After receiving just 106 plate appearances and hitting no home runs in his first two years of college, Olmedo-Barrera suddenly burst onto the scene this season in his draft year on his way to becoming the Tampa Bay Rays’ 12th pick.
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This season at Cal State Fullerton, Olmedo-Barrera hit to a .328/.427/.571 line with 8 doubles, 5 triples, 10 homers, and 14 stolen bases in 18 attempts in 250 plate appearances. Listed at 6’1″, 170 but actually closer to 215 pounds after bulking up this season, Olmedo-Barrera emerged as the Titans’ starting designated hitter and led the team in home runs, RBI, triples, run scored, and even stolen bases. His 10 homers were actually half of the team’s total of 20.
When we look at David Olmedo-Barrera’s statistics, there are certainly some weird things going on. He was his team’s best hitter and their best basestealer, but he still played the field only on the rarest of occasions. The Rays did draft him as an outfielder–they certainly aren’t giving up on him defensively–but what is going on here? Even if the Titans had a great defensive outfield, Olmedo-Barrera still should have played the outfield a few times and first base on a bunch of occasions as well.
Olmedo-Barrera was once a third baseman, but for whatever reason, he is considered a well below-average defensive player right now despite his speed. He appears to have issues reading balls off the bat in the outfield and doesn’t have a good arm either. All of that being said, I’m still perplexed by how poorly he is regarded defensively. Can he really have great speed and not become an average left fielder at worst?
From the Tampa Bay Rays’ perspective, they will worry more about finding a defensive home for Olmedo-Barrera once he proves that he can keep hitting at higher levels. That is no guarantee either. He has learned to tap into his raw power, but scouts don’t believe in his bat speed and question how much contact he will make. He does have a relatively disciplined approach, but his pitch recognition also comes with concerns. On the positive side, he does have good foot speed and could be a 20-stolen base threat. We have to wonder, though, whether that will matter.
Olmedo-Barrera came a long way in one season, and the Rays will hope to continue refining his raw abilities. His swing may need to be reworked entirely, and he will need extensive work in the outfield, but his power-speed combination is a great place to start and his strong work ethic only helps matters. It is extremely unclear what David Olmedo-Barrera can become, but the Rays are drafting him because they are cautiously optimistic about his future.
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