Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late July after struggling for most of the season.
Prior to being optioned, Barnes had a pedestrian .196 batting average with an OPS of .616 in Los Angeles. In 70 games at the big league level, he hit 5 home runs and drove in 23 runs while scoring 27 times. Moreover, he recorded more strikeouts (53) than hits (40).times.
Safe to say, it had not been the season he envisioned. However, it’s been a different story in AAA.
Barnes is quietly having a solid month with Oklahoma City. He has a batting average of .273, an OPS of .979. He’s added 15 H, 12 R, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 9 BB, in 55 at-bats. Those 5 homers came in consecutive games.
“I think it was just a matter of him just taking a step back and come here and play and take some pressure off.”
Austin Barnes is finding his way in Oklahoma City. Plus notes on A.J. Pollock and Kiké Hernández's next step. https://t.co/usdNchwia5
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) August 14, 2019
Now, OKC batting coach Scott Coolbaugh talks about Barnes’ time down in the minor leagues.
“There wasn’t something that was glaring. I think it was just a matter of him just taking a step back and come here and play and take some pressure off.”
Undoubtedly the pressure had reached a boiling point for the 29 year-old, to a point where the major league clubhouse reportedly “let out a sigh of relief” when he was optioned.
The catcher adds his thoughts on what’s changed with OKC.
“I feel better at the plate — I feel like I’m swinging at better pitches and recognizing the ball better. So, yeah, I think that was just the result of that. I feel more comfortable.”
“I’m just focused on where I’m at right now and getting better. Whatever happens, happens.”
Barnes has established himself as an MLB option (no pun intended) in the past, and perhaps this relaxed hot streak was just what the doctor ordered. He has performed well and will be called back up the Dodgers in September when rosters expand.
He will likely get a good runway to prove himself in September and possible earn a playoff roster spot. There will be a good possibility that the Dodgers could head into the playoffs with 3 catchers, with Will Smith remaining the primary catcher.
While Barnes has struggled in the playoffs throughout his career, his versatility would play up for manager Dave Roberts.