Dodgers: Austin Barnes’ 2017 Season Grade

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31: Austin Barnes
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31: Austin Barnes /

The Dodgers had a phenomenal season in 2017, thanks in part to unlikely contributors. Austin Barnes was a critical piece, stepping into a prominent role late in the year.

At the start of spring training, I’m sure not many of you figured Austin Barnes would be the everyday catcher during the World Series. In fact, there were quite a few players that weren’t expected to produce this year.  Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, and Brandon Morrow are all guys that were off of most people’s radars for 2017. Despite that, here we are a few weeks removed from one of the best Dodger seasons ever. A big part of the team’s success came from the emergence of guys like Austin Barnes, who stepped up big time. So how does his first full season rank?

Barnes was a big part of the everyday lineup, but he didn’t truly pull the role away from Yasmani Grandal until late in the season. In fact, the start of playoffs was when Barnes started to take over entirely. After Grandal started 113 games at catcher during the regular season, he got only eight total at-bats in all of the postseason. That is a heck of a change in direction for the choice of top catcher.

The way Barnes was playing, it was just too difficult for Dave Roberts to ignore, prompting the last minute change.  On the year, the young backstop hit .289 with 38 runs batted in. Barnes was also second to only Jonathan Lucroy in on-base percentages by a catcher in the National League at a .408 mark. Just to give you some reference, hall of fame catchers Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra never had a year where they broke .400 for on-base percentage.

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While he did take a bit of a dip in the playoffs, Barnes still hit .238 with a big-time home run in game three of the Division Series. What’s most interesting about Barnes, is that he hit right-handed pitchers far better than he did left-handers on the year. There is nearly a 64 point difference in his average against southpaws for the 2017 regular season.

On top of everything else, Barnes has been phenomenal behind the dish. Austin Barnes caught 23% of would-be base stealers on 31 attempts. While that number might not be mind-boggling, it’s worth noting that it would put him around league average for catchers. Many across the league have also praised Barnes’ exceptional pitch framing, which could have helped the pitching staff tremendously this year. Not only that, but Barnes proved himself to be quite versatile in 2017. Aside from 49 starts at catcher, he also started 21 games at second base.

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Barnes came up big time in 2017, and he’s one of the reasons the Dodgers had such a fantastic year. He came up big when Grandal was slumping, and he was the right call as the playoff starter. Barnes definitely earned an “A” from me in 2017. It’s truly starting to look like that trade of Dan Haren, and Dee Gordon is paying off for the Dodgers. Look for the Riverside native to come up big over the next couple of years. And look for him to be in Dodger blue for a very long time.