After being selected in the ninth round of the 2011 Draft by the Miami Marlins, Austin Barnes spent the first two years of his professional career bouncing back and forth between catcher and second base.
In 2013, he became a catcher full time, and by 2014, he’d established himself as one of the top catching prospects in baseball. That winter, Barnes came over to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with Chris Hatcher, Kiké Hernandez and Andrew Heaney in the Dee Gordon trade.
Barnes made his Major League debut in 2015 but couldn’t find a steady spot on the 25-man roster. This season was more of the same.
Barnes entered Spring Training without a role on the Major League club, but broke camp with the Dodgers while Yasmani Grandal recovered from a forearm issue. Barnes got three starts over 10 days, collecting just two hits, before Grandal returned and Barnes was sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
He returned to the team in June, serving as a third catcher, and went 0-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout in one start. Barnes returned to Oklahoma City nine days later.
His third stint with the Dodgers came on July 22, but once again Barnes failed to receive much playing time, collecting just four more at-bats before returning to OKC. He’d finally return to the Dodgers and stick on Sept. 2, the day after active rosters expanded.
In the Minors, though, Barnes shined. Over 85 games with Oklahoma City, he hit .295/.380/.443 with 22 doubles, six home runs and 18 stolen bases. He played 63 games behind the plate, 15 at second base, nine at third and even got a start in center field.
While Barnes didn’t make an impact with the bat while with the Dodgers, he displayed outstanding framing ability. StatCorner’s Catcher Report rated him third in the league among all catchers at getting additional strike calls per game.
Barnes was a surprise addition to the Dodgers’ National League Division Series roster and he was part of one of the biggest moments of the Dodgers’ season. In the seventh inning of Game 5, Joc Pederson led off with a game-tying home run. Yasmani Grandal followed with a walk.
After a Howie Kendrick single moved Grandal to second base, Barnes came in to pinch-run for Grandal. Two batters later, Carlos Ruiz’s single drove in Barnes to give the Dodgers the lead.
The Dodgers hold a club option on Ruiz, which would provide them with a veteran backup to Grandal. Recent rumors of Ruiz being shopped could open that role for Barnes.
But for the time being, it appears that Barnes won’t have an opportunity to start with the Dodgers, which could persuade the team to explore a trade.