By: Brian Frank
This is the second Conversations with the Herd to feature Addison Barger. To read the first conversation, click here.
Addison Barger skyrocketed through the Blue Jays farm system in 2022. He began the season with the High-A Vancouver Canadians, where he slashed .300/.366/.558 with 14 home runs in 69 games, before being promoted to Double-A New Hampshire, where he hit .313/.384/.528 and tallied nine more home runs in 47 games.
He was promoted to Buffalo in September and found instant success at the Triple-A level, hitting a walk-off bases-loaded single in the tenth inning of his first game with the Herd. He followed that up with a two-hit performance the next night and then belted two home runs in his third Triple-A game. He ended up slashing .345/.441/.690 with three home runs in eight games for Buffalo, recording at least one hit in all eight contests. His success at Triple-A only adds to the 24-year-old infielder’s confidence coming into the 2023 season.
“It’s a small sample size of course,” he said in a recent interview with The Herd Chronicles about his success in Buffalo last year. “But it definitely helps knowing you’ve had some success here. My confidence is high.”
Barger taking infield at Sahlen Field. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
Barger worked hard to improve his game in the offseason. He comes into 2023 noticeably bigger than he was last season, having added muscle during the offseason.
“Every offseason a lot of my time goes into physicality – just being in the gym, eating more calories, things like that,” he said. “That’s something I’m passionate about that I take care of in the offseason, for sure.”
He got his first taste of big-league camp at this year’s spring training. He took advantage of the opportunity, slashing .294/.351/.441 in 15 Grapefruit League games, including a mammoth home run in the Blue Jays spring opener.
“It was awesome,” he said. “That’s a great experience. Obviously, that first big league camp you don’t really know what to expect but it was really a lot of fun. It was a good time. I loved it.”
Barger was able to learn from one of the best fielders in the game during the spring when he took infield alongside gold-glove third baseman Matt Chapman, whose ear he was able to pick.
“We’d talk when I’d take groundballs at third base with him,” Barger said. “I’d ask questions and he’d answer them for me. He was great. He’s definitely a good guy to have in your corner.”
He also found some willing mentors as he begins to add the outfield to his defensive repertoire.
“We had (Kevin) Kiermaier and (Daulton) Varsho out there to kind of take me under their wings and teach me whatever I need to know – because I haven’t really played any outfield. So it was really great. I’m pretty comfortable out there. I’ll probably be out there a little bit this year a few times.”
A natural right-handed hitter, Barger taught himself to hit left-handed at a young age.
“A ton of reps in the backyard in the cage with my dad,” he said of how he became comfortable hitting left-handed. “When I decided when I was eight or nine years old to hit left-handed, I just hit every day for a couple hours – every single day. Eventually I was comfortable enough to do it in a game, to start hitting in my travel ball games left-handed – and I stuck to it.”
Barger's leg kick. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
Fans will notice a pronounced leg kick in the young slugger’s swing.
“That was just something I’ve always had,” he explained. “I loved Ichiro, so I was very fascinated with Japanese-style baseball. They have a lot of big leg kicks, so I kind of took after that. It’s just something I’ve always done since I was a little kid.”
Barger comes into the season ranked sixth on MLB Pipeline’s list of Blue Jays prospects. But he is unfazed by the hype.
“It doesn’t affect me at all,” he shrugged. “I don’t pay any attention to it.”
So how can he top the incredible success he had last season that saw him rise through three levels of the Blue Jays system?
“I would like to hit thirty homers this year,” he said. “That’s definitely a goal of mine. I just missed it last year, so I think it’s something that I can do. That would be a cool milestone. That’s probably my biggest goal this season as far as statistics go.”
“I’m just trying to build off what I did last year. Keep that momentum and have a good year. Ultimately, to be an everyday big leaguer is the goal. Whatever that takes, I think I’m capable of doing it. As long as I do what I know I’m able to do, then I think I’ll be alright.”