Austin Barnes is Going To Be Very Important

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Depth is primed to be an even bigger story this season than last season, basically the entire crop of starting positions players are coming in with either health questions or production questions. This is why mid-December the Dodgers had so many questions about Enrique Hernandez, we understand that he’s versatile enough to cover 2b/SS/3b and all of the OF positions, but he can’t be running from one position to another mid game.

So despite what you think about Austin Barnes, whether that’s a tweener who might be a fun role player, or whether he has the skills to become a top 5 catcher with playing time, he is going to be a vital cog at the big league level.

Barnes of course, was a throw-in with the Marlins in the Andrew Heaney trade that got the Dodgers Enrique Hernandez, Howie Kendrick, and Chris Hatcher.

This post was spawned out of fangraph’s prospect list which listed Barnes as an above average regular right now with his future being a plus catcher, his ceiling basically being a top 3 catcher. I initially thought this was ridiculous, while his minor league hitting resume speaks for itself, (.300 average paired with a .828 OPS), he’s always been around the league average age for his level the pitchers he was facing were generally younger than him and developing, a minor league hitter who went to Arizona State should crush minor league pitching!

Here’s Farnsworth on the catcher:

I’m not saying, nor have I ever said he’s a 3.5-4 win player right now. 55/60/70 is me communicating I think he’s a ~2.5 win player right now, with a good chance at being a ~3 win player and a slim but possible chance of being ~4.5-5 win player.

So lets start off with “scouting is hard”, cause it really really really really is. And that’s a really nice way of looking at Barnes, Farnsworth -who is absolutely the high man in the prospecting world on Barnes- might totally nail his evaluation on him! However I do want to point out that Kiley McDaniel who is now the assistant Director of Baseball Operations of the Atlanta Braves had him 9th in the Dodger organization last season, there was a pretty significant disparity between his 2015 valuation and his 2016 valuation:

Farnsworth’s grade: 50+ hit tool 40 power tool 45 speed tool 50 field tool 50 throw tool 45 future value

Kiley’s grade: 60 hit tool 45 power tool 45 run tool 60 field tool 50 throw tool 60 future value

So… what changed? Barnes’ numbers in Oklahoma City were .315/.389/.479 with an almost even K-BB ratio. Is an .869 OPS in the PCL enough to bump up the hit hit tool 7.5 points and the power 5 points? I’d say not, but you’ll see that the 10 point bump in his field tool is significant, and likely to do with framing.

This is from his 2015 evaluation

with one exec telling me he’s top 25-30 in the minor leagues, so the plan is to develop him as a potential everyday catcher but know that he can also be a utility guy if needed.

This is in his 2016 evaluation

Going by BP’€™s catching defense stats, Barnes was second only to fellow Dodger Yasmani Grandal in all of professional baseball last year with over 20 runs added via his receiving

20 runs is a lot, translated to offense is basically like going from Brandon Phillips to Jose Abreu, Whether those figures are believable that a catcher can add that much value by receiving is up for debate, but the President of Baseball Operations is known to value framing more than most teams.

Also we should point that catchers with plus defense and a potentially average hit tool just don’t exist catchers who fit this description are Buster Posey, Francisco Cervelli, Russell Martin, Brian McCann, Yasmani Grandal and Miguel Montero.

As far as the valuation numbers go, I don’t buy that he raised his hit tool a grade and a half, nor his power tool a grade because he hit well on the moon, and making the jump from a top 25 framer in the minor league to the best framer not named Yasmani Grandal in all of baseball is one that I’m not comfortable making, however his defensive prowess is undeniable. A 55 fielding tool isn’t out of the question considering he’s obviously one of the better framers in the minor leagues, I don’t think an average hit tool is out of the question either because of his control of the strike zone.

And also the catching situation is a mess around the league, my friend Stacie Wheeler over at Dodgers Digest pointed out that the catching depth in division is a dumpster fire, sure the Giants have Buster Posey, but after that who in the division would take their starting catcher over Austin Barnes?

The Padres, maybe?

And Barnes is going to get playing time, I mean if we learned anything from 2015 is that Yasmani Grandal is just not a good bet to make it through the season healthy and AJ Ellis went through a stretch where we were questioning his ability to play baseball at a major league level.

So Barnes is going to get his chances, I don’t buy the potentially plus catcher, but he doesn’t have to be to be valuable to this team.

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Adrian Garcia

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35 thoughts on “Austin Barnes is Going To Be Very Important

  1. Barnes looks a lot better this spring, than when I saw him play on TV last fall.

    He needs to play every day to get even better — but he might need to be on the 25 man roster soon. AJ Ellis is kind of in the way, for my thinking. AJ is a great guy, but we need to move Barnes in on that spot.

    And if Grandal in any way continues to be hurt. Make that move.

  2. I agree Roger. He looks about ready. But without an injury, or a trade, he doesn’t play in LA this year.

    Grandal is projected between 96 and 122 games. Who knows what he will do but I got the under on mover’s 135. Or was it 125? Either way, I don’t believe Grandal can make it through a season without going on the DL. 20 runs saved sounds high to me.

      1. Because Grandal is an injury risk and because the Dodgers would benefit more from getting a pitcher than keeping Grandal, I would try to package Grandal with pitching prospects to get a 1.5 pitcher.

      2. Hello Scott. first day here, having joined on the Bellinger article but yes, Barnes I believe has earned a roster spot but the INN is still crowded

  3. You are right Roger Dodger, Barnes is looking good this spring. Oh course, Mountain Mover has been pounding the table on Barnes for a long time and I have agreed with him.

    Adrian: “Barnes of course, was a throw-in with the Marlins in the Andrew Heaney trade that got the Dodgers Enrique Hernandez, Howie Kendrick, and Chris Hatcher”. Couldn’t disagree more, I have always thought Barnes was a HUGE part of the Gordon trade. Remember in 2014, Ellis BA .191, Butera BA .188 and FedEx BA .113. In addition the Dodgers had no other catching possibilities in the organization. They needed some catching depth. I believe FAZ recognized they needed new catchers and couldn’t chance not having anyone to fill in case of catcher injuries. That would truly have been a waste of a year of Kershaw/Greinke. Its that depth thing again.

    1. You are correct. Barnes was a key piece in the Gordon deal. No players were throw inn pieces Hernandez was maybe the least important player at the time of the deal. The Angels wanted Barnes with Heaney later that night when they swapped him for Kendrick but the Dodgers refused. He was a sought after piece and reports have said that the Marlins regret having moved him.

  4. We all agree that we needed depth at catcher last year. People who saw Barnes at OKC pronounced him ready. But through August and September we just saw an injured Grandal flailing away. I hope they don’t waste Barnes another year.

  5. Ugh. Looks like 4 months of continual headache in the form of strict medication for me. At least there’s a silver lining to this dark cloud. I get to live longer! In the meantime……..UGH! Just dump it right here on me, I can take it! UGH!

      1. Oh yeah, Just displaying my elderly grumpy demeanor. Earned or not, it’s my gift. Don’t know if I’m a natural at it. But I’m practicing.

          1. And nothing unusual about Turner stepping on that thing called ‘home plate’ more than anybody else. Turner, always in the mix!

  6. Great to see Turner back and you too Quas… Keep taking your meds and don’t feel like the Lone Ranger… There are a bunch of seemingly elderly and grumpy folks here… Geritol Gardens you know!!!..
    Barnes, no need for him to sit and yes I won’t put a fork in Ellis yet … Maybe A.J. would be a good piece in a trade…

  7. A.J. Ellis has much more integral value than sight seen. Salt of the earth. I hope he’s around longer than his playing years.

  8. Bumsrap ” would I like the Seagers on the left side of my IF”??? Is that a trick question???
    Seattle has Kyle for a few years left on a relatively cheap contract (there I go again, I threw up a little in my mouth”?? The Blue getting Kyle at this point is like the kid pitcher from Oakland…
    I’ll defer to Mountainmover or Mark to give me reasonable list to get Kyle…

    1. But maybe besides those you mentioned, Dodgers then must insist they take Crawford too. And team has the resources to help absorb some of that ridiculous contract of his.

    2. Grandal would be a HUUUGE upgrade in Seattle. Zunino, Iannetta, Sucre, and Clevenger would have problems reaching Mendoza line. I do not see Lee being a trade piece with Seattle. They have King Felix, Iwakuma, and Miley as projected #1-#3, and Walker, Paxton, and Karns fighting for #4 and #5. I would suspect that Lee would be fighting Karns for #6. Baez would be a good possibility for the pen. And Ethier would be an upgrade, especially if one + year of his salary would be included. As big of an upgrade, I still do not think that package gets Kyle Seager. It would solve a lot of problems for LAD, and help Seattle, but it would leave a huge hole and no real replacement at 3B for the Mariners.

      1. Grandal, Turner, Ethier, Wood, Baez for Kyle Seager and Miley. I like Turner but I think he is a free agent next year and if he wants a 5 year contract he might not be back as a Dodger. Seager has a contract extension that pays him big dollars.

  9. Every team in the west ( sans SF) would take Barnes over their current starting catcher???
    .
    What is the consensus on his ability to hit major league pitching?

  10. Did you guys see that Kazmir’s velosity is down? He was pitching 86, to 89 today. He said that he expects to get his velosity up, after he builds his arm up. The Giants are having pitching problems too. Bumgarner hurt one of his feet, and felt something in his rib cage. The rib cage doesn’t suprise me, because he pitches across his body. And Matt Cain is behind schedule. And I guess the shark, has pitched erratically, and they are babying Cueto, because he pitched late into the season.

  11. Sorry, I’m still not sold on the notion that Grandal is a superior defensive catcher based on fooling the umpire aka “pitch framing”. Too many in the dirt pitches get away from him and while he’s not Todd Hundley he also doesn’t have a cannon for an arm.

    1. I agree 100% with this Turtle. I’m not sold on any of that either. Defensive metrics are accepted as iffy, and that framing thing will be very different very soon. Umpires are an egotistical group. They may deliberately send a message to those who have a reputation for making them look like fools. And yeah, Grandal lets too many pitched get by him. Why isn’t that included in the metrics?

  12. Are the Dodgers just not broadcasting some of their ST games? I thought last year I watched almost every ST game. Can you get their games anyplace else?

  13. I don’t know about the ST broadcasts, but this Daylight Savings Time is killing me!!! See Quas, I got it too!!!
    Change of pace for the Older Dodger fans… Does anybody remember waiting at the top of the tunnel at the Coliseum waiting for the Dodgers after the game??? Same thing for Rams and Chargers… Sweet anticipation for a kid with a pen n program in his hand…
    The Posey rule is still pissing me off!!! Oh, but the boy can catch and rake…

    1. I think the players are not going to like, the quote Utley new rule, because this eliminates the neighborhood play. Runners are going to still slide hard into second. It is ok if they are sliding in to second base, and not sliding beyond second base, or outside the baseline. The shortstop or second baseman, will have to touch second base now. And now that we have replay, there will probably be a few players, that aren’t touching second, on the double play. What does everyone feel about Kazmir’s velosity being so low right now? I read in the B game yesterday, that Kazmir, had two of the first three batters, reach base on a hit, and in the second inning, three of the first four batters got on, with hits. And each time this happened, in both innings, the Dodgers pulled Kazmir, after this happened, because he had reached his pitch number each time. I know this is just spring training, but should he be up to his last year’s velosity by now?

    2. Peterj I am to young to remember that, but I remember waiting for the players, to come out to there cars, after a game, at Dodger stadium. You could always spot the players cars, because they were right behind the pavilion , and all of the cars, were nice cars.

  14. The shortstop will do what he always does, swipe at the bag as he comes across. Umps will continue to give them that as long as the infielder isn’t stupid about it. If done properly the fielder should clear the baseline quickly to make his throw. If the runner is sliding into to the base, there will be no problem. This can be handled properly. I had NO problem doing it when I was umping. Get down IN THE BASELINE or get out of the way. There may be collisions at the base on close calls but if everybody is doing what they are supposed to be doing it will be fine. It’s baseball. Some contact is inevitable. Contact like what Utley did is clearly visible to all and will no longer be tolerated. Play by the rules. That’s why we have umpires in the first place.

  15. It must be noted, however, that pitch framing is a transient skillset, at best. Pitch framing shows up umpires, and, believe me, umpires do not want to be shown up. Umpires will compensate. That’s already been seen. Like every other short term trend in baseball, for every short term advantage gained by something new, it goes away over time. Pitch framing, however “trendy” it is now, will diminish as the game of baseball goes on.

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