Dodgers: Austin Barnes’ home run streak and what his future holds
As the main catcher for the Oklahoma City Dodgers, Barnes has started in three games in a row and in his third game, Barnesy broke out big time.
Austin Barnes has not started a minor league game since 2016. Or at least that was the case until his end-of-July demotion sent him packing. Now, as the main catcher for the Oklahoma City Dodgers, Barnes has started in three games in a row for what is one of the deepest minor league teams in all of baseball.
And in his third game, Barnesy broke out.
The 29-year-old had an all-around “Show Me” game, going 2-4 with a solo home run, a single, two runs scored and a stolen base to boot. Yes, he did strike out as well, but who doesn’t?
In this standout performance against the Oakland Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate, the Las Vegas Aviators, Barnes’ home run stood out even more because it came off of A.J. Puk, the tall left-handed flamethrower who regularly throws 98 mph heaters and who is ranked 45th on MLB Pipeline.
He didn’t just stop there though. Barnes went on to homer the next night, and the night after, giving him home runs in three straight games. In that three-game stretch, Barnes has accumulated 6 RBI and 5 hits, though he has struck out twice.
And better yet, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to see him slow down or lose playing time. Barnes should continue to start plenty of games as Keibert Ruiz, the Dodgers’ top catching prospect has reportedly broken a finger and will miss the rest of the season.
The Dodgers don’t necessarily need Austin Barnes right now with Will Smith crushing the ball, but even though I love Smith as do many other Dodger fans, there are some strong incentives to returning Barnes to the major league roster.
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For starters, he has the experience. Across the 2017 and 2018 postseason runs, Barnes played in 25 games with 84 plate appearances. Though at the plate, this experience is not all good. While in 2017 Barnes hit .217 with a home run, 8 runs scored and 5 RBI, his 2018 numbers were rough, to the tune of a 43.8% strikeout rate and .069 batting average.
Beyond his somewhat bland experience in the postseason, Barnes also holds promise to improve. Think back to the end of 2017, when Barnes overtook Yasmani Grandal as the starting catcher for the hottest team in baseball.
Plain and simple, Austin Barnes has a solid hit tool in terms of his ability to make contact, and his versatility in the field and speed on the basepaths make him unlike many catchers in the game today.
If he can reign in his shaky defense and poor offensive showings at the MLB level, then Barnes can make a case to start over Smith. That is of course unless Smith forces management’s hand, which he seems to be doing not just with his powerful bat, but with his defensive wherewithal behind the plate as well.
Regardless of how the catching situation of 2019 resolves itself, the future of Dodger backstops looks to be quite bright.