Photo courtesy the Portland Sea Dogs

How one Red Sox may have helped derail Diamondbacks' pursuit of J.D. Martinez

Rob Bradford
February 15, 2018 - 11:26 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jeremy Barfield is already one of the more intriguing players in Red Sox camp.

This is a guy who was plucked out of Independent League ball at the beginning of 2017, going on to hit 27 homers in 92 games for Double-A Portland. (More on that in a bit.) Oh yeah, and he's also the son of former major leaguer Jesse Barfield.

But what should be of immediate interest is the fact that Barfield may have already impacted the Red Sox big league team without playing a single game.

The outfielder probably has no idea how he might help shape the Red Sox roster. All he was doing, after all, was participating in some hitting tests with the Diamondbacks back in November. But, considering all the angles being played by both Arizona and the Sox in securing the services of free agent slugger J.D. Martinez, that exercise Barfield participated in at Chase Field should be of some note.

What happened in that day just before Thanksgiving was Barfield joining a group of hitters -- which also included former Red Sox Grady Sizemore -- in helping the Diamondbacks' study of using balls that had been stored in a humidor. The only team to execute such a plan has been the Rockies, with the idea that the humidor would limit the liveliness of baseballs in high-altitude settings.

With his brother, Josh, serving as the Diamondbacks' farm director, Barfield was asked to hit a few balls with the Arizona brass testing the effects. The hitters were offered 400 regular baseballs, and 400 humidor baseballs without any warning regarding which was which.

"There was a 17-foot difference between the furthest one I hit with a regular ball and the humidor ball," Barfield said. "It was a noticeable difference. The main difference you notice was on mis-hits. I thought I broke my bat on a couple and they went out a couple of rows deep. And I thought, 'That must be a regular ball.' They looked at the data and it was. It was crazy."

So, what does this mean for the Red Sox?

Well, after conducting the tests, Arizona has decided to use the humidor to store its baseballs, making the Diamondbacks' home park a far less home run-friendly environment. This, of course, might be of some interest to the power-hitting Martinez when making his decision.

Also of note was the impression left by Barfield, who finished the day with the most prolific exit velocity of any of the participating hitters. For the Red Sox brass, that didn't come as a surprise.

The righty hitter represents a very real power-hitting option in the organization, something the Sox are starving for. That's why he's a non-roster spring training invitee.

"I kind of figured it out at the right time the way the game is trending," Barfield, said. "Hopefully this is my opportunity."

It's a payoff for a lot of perseverance on the behalf of Barfield, who was moved to pitcher by the A's at one point before finally being relegated to the Independent League Sugar Land team starting in 2016. Fortunately for the 6-foot-5 slugger, he finally figured out what was ailing him.

"I got Lasik [eye surgery]," he said. "A couple of years later I hit 60 home runs the last couple of years. I should have done it a lot sooner. I just went all in. It was either that or just be done with the game. I wasn't getting jobs. I had nothing on the radar. I just said, 'I'm going all in,' and it paid off.

"As soon as I stepped foot in Indy ball that's kind of do or die. Either your playing to play, or you're playing to get back in affiliated ball. At some point, you have to go all in."

The procedure did wonders, and now here he is.

"I was hitting pitches I probably would have missed the year before. Right away it paid dividends," Barfield said. "I don't look at launch angle. I don't look at any of that. That's not really my forte. I know I have to hit ht ball in the air anyway. If I hit the ball on the ground, I missed. There is launch angle, but it's not like I have that ingrained in my head, like 'I have to hit this 27 degrees.' It's all worked out."