The Dodgers find themselves with one of the best problems to have in Spring Training. The team is loaded with talent, so much so that there will be some tough calls as we get closer to Opening Day. One of the positions in a heated battle comes as a little bit of a surprise though. Austin Barnes has been impressing all spring long and could make the competition at catcher interesting this year.
Spring Training is still just Spring Training, but it’s hard to not get excited about the numbers Austin Barnes is putting up. He has six hits in eighteen at-bats, and three of those hits are for extra bases. Hitting .333 at this point in spring after being so bad offensively the last two years has to at least inspire hope for the Dodgers. Dave Roberts knows what Barnes went through last year.
I think there was a lot of things going on with his swing last year. I do think that when you look and the scoreboard (and see you batting average), that has some kind of factor on how he was a took things. You start pressing and trying to perform.
That pressing eventually led to just 242 plate appearances and a career-worst 68 OPS-plus rating. Barnes lost his starting job in the second half of the season to rookie Will Smith, and his season might as well have been over from there. Barnes started just ten games in the second half and the Dodgers demoted him to Triple-A in July. But this is a new year, and quite possibly a new Austin Barnes.
I think that right now, mechanically, the headspace that he’s at, he’s in a great place. I think that if he could get better defensively, he’s done that in this camp…So Austin has really come into camp impressing.
Getting excited about a spring performance is difficult, but let’s give it a little bit of context. Austin Barnes has been really bad offensively the last two seasons. If you take a look at his sping numbers combined for the last two years with the Dodgers, he has hit .209 with six extra-base hits and struck out twenty times.
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Maybe there is something to his great spring start with the Dodgers, and maybe there isn’t. But Will Smith certainly experienced a downturn in performance after a hot start last year, and that has yet to pick up. Smith has three hits in twenty-one at-bats this spring and has struck out seven times.
Keeping that in mind with Barnes’ hot start, things could get very interesting as we close in on Opening Day.