For much of the 2017 season, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts went with a platoon behind the plate, as Yasmani Grandal saw most of the time against right-handed pitching and Austin Barnes started against southpaws.
Barnes had a breakout season both defensively and offensively, and demonstrated the ability to hit both lefties and righties well. As the season went on and Grandal began to slump, Barnes steadily began to earn more and more playing time.
Grandal started Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but after that Barnes started 13 of the team’s next 14 playoff games to close out the Dodgers run that ended with a Game 7 loss to the Houston Astros in the World Series.
In a recent interview on Dodger Talk with David Vassegh on AM 570 L.A. Sports Radio, Barnes discussed what it meant to him to earn the starting job and be playing in such important games:
“It means everything. You go out there and compete with your teammates. Every day you go out there and grind and prepare with them. You want to be in the lineup, obviously. You want to help the team win. Obviously, in big games like that, you want to be part of it. It was a fun run.”
Barnes began the postseason well, hitting .500/.556/1.000 with a home run and three RBIs in the NLDS. He struggled with the bat in the next two series and finished the playoffs with a .217/.288/.326 slashline. Although, his strong rapport with the pitching staff and number of quality at-bats, even if the end result wasn’t a hit, were still valuable.
Overall on the season, Barnes hit .289/.408/.486 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs in just 102 games. He easily set career-highs in several offensive categories.
Barnes and Grandal will likely head into Spring Training in a competition for the starting catching spot. There have been rumblings the Dodgers are open to trading Grandal, who is among the team’s players eligible for salary arbitration.