After a breakout offensive season in 2017, it is no secret that Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes had a disappointing showing at the plate last season.
Barnes’ batting average dipped from .289 in 2017 to .205 in 2018, and his on-base plus slugging percentage went from .895 to .619, which is a massive drop off.
With Yasmani Grandal no longer with the team, Barnes went into Spring Training this year battling with Russell Martin for the starting catching job.
Barnes was hoping to prove that he can return to his 2017 form this spring, and so far he has been able to do exactly that. In 12 Cactus League games, Barnes is hitting a blistering .323/.417/.613 with two home runs and a team-leading 12 RBI.
After hitting a two-run, opposite field home run in Saturday’s win over the Chicago White Sox, Barnes discussed why he has been able to have so much success this spring, via Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“I do think I’m seeing the ball better, strike zone-wise too, recognizing strikes and balls which I’ve always been able to do throughout my career. I kind of took pride in that. Kind of lost that last year. I feel like I’m working in the right direction. Just have to keep going.”
Barnes has also looked improved defensively after throwing out a runner trying to take third on a ball in the dirt on Saturday.
Many pundits believed that the catching position would be the Dodgers’ biggest weakness this season after letting Grandal walk in free agency and not pursuing J.T. Realmuto further on the trade market. But if Barnes can continue anywhere close to this sort of offensive production in the regular season, then the Dodgers will be just fine behind the dish in 2019.