After weeks of waiting on some sort of outcome in regards to the Dodgers attempt to trade for Brian Dozier, it looks like the Twins and Dodgers are not going to be able to put something together. The Twins want more than the Dodgers were willing to offer, which was reported to be Jose De Leon, who depending on who you ask is either the team’s #1 or #2 pitching prospect.
Because the Dodgers have apparently moved on from trying to acquire Dozier, many have looked towards other outside options to fill the vacancy at second for the Dodgers.
Names like Ian Kinsler, Logan Forsythe and Jurickson Profar have been getting the most attention. Others such as Josh Harrison, Luis Valbuena and Yangervis Solarte have also popped up a time or two.
With trades probably coming at a hefty price, and the cheaper options in Solarte (extension with Padres) and Valbuena (signed with Angels) now off of the table, the odds of the Dodgers filling their hole at second base are slowly starting to spin out of their favor.
There are internal options. Probably none of them would be as good as if the Dodgers made a trade for a new second baseman, but these internal options come at no cost.
I know what you’re thinking.
“Nobody wants to see any of Kiké Hernandez, Charlie Culberson or Chris Taylor start every single day in 2017.”
To that, I agree with you. But what if there was another option that involved some creativity on the part of Dave Roberts, and it involves manipulating the versatility he has at his disposal.
I’m talking Austin Barnes. Barnes holds a value only a handful of players in all of professional baseball has: He’s a catcher who also plays second base, and he is not bad at it.
The trade of Carlos Ruiz finally opened the door for 27-year-old Austin Barnes to get his first shot as a full-time Major League Baseball player. An honor that has been a long time coming for him, and he definitely deserves.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) January 19, 2017
He is praised for his advanced hitting, with a lot of line drive power and the potential to hit double digits in home runs at the major league level. Also mentioned is that Barnes is quite an underrated defender behind the plate. He has not mastered everything, but he does everything a catcher should do.
There have been multiple reports that Barnes, right now, is actually good enough to be the starting catcher for a handful of teams in the league. He has the bat to back it up too. With continuous success as a hitter, solid defense at multiple positions and just all around versatility, Barnes holds a significant amount of value.
Barnes hits both right-handed and left-handed pitchers. He hits for average, gets on base quite a bit, can hit a ball out of the yard and has more speed than you would expect.
Over the course of six minor league seasons, he has an impressive slash line:
.299 Batting Average
.388 On Base Percentage
.439 Slugging Percentage
.828 On Base Plus Slugging
The .388 OBP is something to really look into when considering Austin Barnes for the starting second base job. The Dodgers have no real leadoff hitter. The main objective for a leadoff hitter is to get on base. While Barnes does not have the base stealing profile of what most feel a leadoff hitter should, he gets on base. Him being able to set the table for the big men behind him would be a crucial component that the team did not get last year from Chase Utley.
Making Barnes the every day second baseman does still cause a few concerns:
- Primarily a catcher at every level he has been in throughout the minor leagues, could a full time job at second base expose his flaws?
- Barnes is above average defensively at catcher, so playing him at second base every day could permanently remove him from the position, which then hurts his value over time.
- The Dodgers will have to go out and find themselves another backup catcher (not hard to do, but still not preferable)
This is where the creativity sets in. This is also where I might lose a few of you, so let me set out a scenario.
Every night that the Dodgers face a right-handed pitcher, Barnes plays second base and Yasmani Grandal catches.
When the Dodgers face a left-handed pitcher, Kiké Hernandez plays second base and time is split between Grandal and Barnes at catcher.
Everyone knows what a horrific 2016 Kiké Hernandez had. Many forgot how fantastic he was against LHP in 2015. The man killed them every time he saw them. It seems like a safe assumption that the real Kiké Hernandez is somewhere in between his 2015 and 2016 form. Giving him about two starts a week against lefties could maximize his value for the team.
Grandal can mash. He mashes way more against RHP then he does against LHP, so giving him and Barnes split time behind the plate against lefties could be great for multiple reasons.
- Austin Barnes continues to get time at catcher throughout the season, keeping him fresh in case of an injury to Yasmani Grandal.
- Yasmani Grandal gets 1-2 days off a week to keep him from being overworked and collapsing in the final third of the season.
This is not the most flashy solution to the second base problem by any means, but it is probably the best way to use what the team has internally. Barnes has the best offensive upside of anyone that can play second base and is major league ready. It gives Hernandez a chance to perform against LHP, which is what he excels at. Grandal will still get the rest he needs in this scenario, which is probably the most important aspect, as he is going to be one of the main sources of offensive production for the team in 2017.