Sure, it’s too early to make any real evaluations on any one player in Spring Training. But I can’t help but get a little bit excited about the Dodgers‘ Austin Barnes. The backup catcher has quietly put together a very nice couple of games early on, and it’s time to get my hopes up again.
Any fan who happens to follow me on Twitter knows that I have a daily battle with Austin Barnes. He is one of those guys who I want to succeed so badly because I know what he can do for this team. And yet, all too often, I find myself disappointed for the last two years in watching him take hacks.
Now, just ten at-bats into his 2020 Spring Training, my hopes are alive and well. Barnes is 4 for 10 for the Dodgers with a double and a 3-run homerun that he hit on Saturday afternoon to give him a very nice early showing. This comes after a year in which he hit .203 and spent some time in the minor leagues.
The job was Barnes to lose following the departure of Yasmani Grandal, and lose it he did. Russell Martin took on a ton of starts in 2019, and top prospect Will Smith came up to take on some as well. After an excellent showing in 2017, Barnes has hit a combined .204 with 9 homeruns in two seasons since with the Dodgers. His OPS+ for those two years sits at an abysmal 70.
But this is a new year, and I did just buy someone on Twitter a Barnes jersey this past offseason. Maybe things are turning around?
Barnes is not eligible to become a free agent until after the 2022 season, but he has a ton of competition. Rookie Will Smith came on and hit .253 with 15 homeruns in 2019, and there are two more guys waiting in the minor leagues. This season could end up being Barnes’ last real shot at a starting job with the team.