A byproduct of the Los Angeles Dodgers fielding a deep roster has been assembling a group of players who are capable of filling in at multiple positions. A prime example of that is Austin Barnes, who was acquired in December 2014 as part of the seven-player trade with the Miami Marlins.
Barnes to that point in his young career had yet to reach the Majors. He’d played catcher and second base at various stops in the Marlins’ farm system. Since joining the Dodgers, Barnes has been utilized at catcher, second base and third base, both in the Minors and Majors.
Now that A.J. Ellis and Carlos Ruiz are no longer on the roster, the 27-year-old Barnes has elevated to the backup catcher to Yasmani Grandal. And it’s with that, that the Dodgers will have Barnes focus on catching duties during Spring Training.
“I think with what we have, Austin is just going to stay behind the plate and work closely with Yasmani and the pitchers,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained on Friday. “For a young player, to consistently work back there and not have to worry too much about changing his arm stroke (is beneficial).”
“It is asking a lot of a player to move around. We already know he can defend it out there at second base if he needs to. With the depth that we have in the infield, guys like Kiké [Hernandez], Logan [Forsythe] and Chase [Utley], we have guys who can handle that position. Right now as we sit here today, Austin will solely be a catcher.”
Barnes, who played infield during his collegiate career at Arizona State, was first used by the Dodgers at second base last spring. He was the third-string catcher behind Grandal and Ellis at the time.
Barnes went on to play second base in 15 games (13 starts) and third base (nine games; seven starts) for Triple-A Oklahoma City last season. He played seven games (two starts) at second base and one game at third for the Dodgers.
His defensive versatility and speed led to Los Angeles carrying Barnes as a third catcher on their 25-man roster for the National League Division Series. That paid off when he scored the go-ahead run as a pinch-runner for Grandal in the winner-take-all Game 5.
In 41 games (15 starts) over parts of two seasons with the Dodgers, Barnes is batting .180/.315/.230 (11-for-16) with three doubles, three RBI and 11 walks.