Dodgers 2019 Player Reviews: Austin Barnes
Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes during batting practice at PNC Park
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the 2019 season the Los Angeles Dodgers really didn’t know what they had in Austin Barnes. He went from having an outstanding year in 2017, supplanting Yasmani Grandal as the team’s starting catcher in the postseason, to being one of the worst offensive backstops in baseball in 2018.

The Dodgers nonetheless decided to let Grandal walk in free agency, and with top prospects Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz still expected to be a year away from being Major League ready, Barnes began this past season as the team’s starter with Russell Martin behind him.

At first, it looked like Barnes had returned to his 2017 self, as he hit a home run in two of the first three games of the season. He eventually cooled off at the plate though, and for a couple of months, the sole reason he was the starter behind the dish was because of his ability to handle the Dodgers’ pitching staff.

Smith was in the midst of an outstanding season with Triple-A Oklahoma City, forcing the Dodgers to call him up earlier than expected. After he continued to swing the bat well at the big league level, the Dodgers made a big change in July by naming Smith the starter and optioning Barnes to Triple-A Oklahoma City for the first time since 2016 to get right.

The decision to send Barnes down ended up being a good one as he slashed .264/.375/.540 with six home runs and 17 RBI in 23 games with OKC, eventually earning himself a trip back to Los Angeles as a September callup.

By then, Smith and Martin had established themselves as the Dodgers’ two catchers and Barnes was left off their postseason roster. Overall in 75 games at the big league level in 2019, Barnes hit .203/.293/.340 with 12 doubles, five home runs, 28 runs scored and 25 RBI.

2019 highlight

One of Barnes’ best games of the season came against the San Francisco Giants on June 20. He went 3-for-4 with a home run, taking Madison Bumgarner deep to help earn a 9-8 victory.

2020 outlook

Barnes has surprisingly drawn some interest on the trade market this winter, particularly from the Houston Astros. They reportedly value his framing and ability to handle a staff, so perhaps the two sides could come to an agreement on a deal. If not, then he will likely be returning to L.A. as their backup behind Smith in 2020.

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