Dodgers: It’s Time to Replace Austin Barnes as the Backup Catcher
The Dodgers are getting solid production from Yasmani Grandal as usual, but Austin Barnes has been unable to replicate his solid 2017 season. Is it time for the Dodgers to replace Barnes as the backup catcher?
The Dodgers came into the season pretty stacked at the catching position. Not only did they have two top-tier catching prospects but Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes made up one of the best catching tandems in the league. Grandal has put up his regular stellar power numbers, but Austin Barnes has been a disappointment this season.
Last season Barnes hit .289 with eight home runs and put up an OPS just below .900. Not only did Austin Barnes have a solid season he took over Grandal’s job as the starting catcher down the stretch and through the Dodgers’ World Series run. There was even some thought that Barnes would be the starting catcher this season.
Not only did Barnes fail to win the starting catching job but he is clinging on to the backup catcher role. The main function of Barnes is to play against left-handed starters since Grandal struggles to bat from the right side of the plate, but this season Barnes has not hit lefties very well. Austin has hit just .250 against southpaw pitchers with an OPS under .700.
One season ago Austin Barnes even hit well against right-handed pitching as he hit over .320 against righties but this season Barnes’ average against righties has dipped all the way down to .151. While Barnes still grades out as an above average catcher defensively, his offensive numbers have made him a non-factor at the plate.
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The Dodgers still have Austin Barnes under team control for four more seasons, so they don’t need to cut him, but they could demote him once they replace him as the backup catcher. If the Dodgers choose to pursue a non-waiver trade candidate they could look at old friend AJ Ellis who is now on the Padres. Ellis is having a surprise season offensively batting .292, but he has graded out below average behind the plate with a -8 DRS.
There are not many non-waiver trade candidates and rather than give up a prospect for a month plus of someone like Ellis, the Dodgers best option is to give Kyle Farmer a shot behind the plate as the new backup catcher. Farmer has come through in the clutch over the last two seasons for the Dodgers whether it’s beating the Giants twice, or his game-winning hit against the Cubs when the Dodgers were down to their last out.
Kyle Farmer is having a solid season for the OKC Dodgers hitting .293 with a slugging percentage over .450. More importantly, against left-handed pitching Farmer has hit over .300 with an OPS over .900 in Triple-A. Farmer has done a lot of moving around the field this season but if he could once again focus on catching he shouldn’t hurt the Dodgers behind the plate.
With less than two full months left in the regular season, the Dodgers need to make a move at backup catcher now if they’re going to make a move at all. The most obvious option and the one that makes sense is to give Kyle Farmer a shot as the backup catcher. Call him up now and give him time to learn the pitching staff so he can be counted on if called on in a potential playoff series.