We’re down to two days left of this boring, non-transactional offseason. Two days left before pitchers and catchers put on those gorgeous Dodger Blue jerseys and report to Camelback Ranch in Arizona. Two days left of winter.
Okay, so obviously that last one wasn’t true. But pitchers and catchers reporting does give one hope that spring is just around the corner, and maybe give us writers hope that soon there will be actually be something new and interesting to write about.
But, since there is not, let’s revisit our (not so) favorite topic of the off-season—how will Austin Barnes handle the job of being full-time catcher. Offseason projections from several outlets are pretty solid on Barnes. We all know that he had a sub-par year in 2018 that saw him go .205/.329/.290 with four home runs. While Baseball Prospectus doesn’t project Barnes to replicate his career high 2017, it does predict a nice rebound season with a .244 batting average, 10 homers and a 3.8 WARP. Not great, but definitely better than last season.
“Obviously, I’ve been working on my swing, trying to get it right. Last season was pretty tough, but I’m feeling confident. I’ve been working with Rob a lot, been going up there and working with him a lot.”
When asked about going through last season, Barnes responded, “Well, I needed to reset. You know it’s hard to make change midseason…..I think we’ve identified some things, and are trying to chip away at them.”
The Dodgers have a pretty deep lineup, and if Barnes hits right where he’s projected, all will be fine. I feel more important is his handling of the pitching staff. Dodgers fans are very aware of the frustration of Yasmani Grandal letting all those balls get passed him last year in the playoffs.
“I think his name has been mentioned over and over again consistently as the number one framer in the game. The way he works and the ability he has to go out there and orchestrate a pitching staff is huge. Everybody’s extremely comfortable with Austin, everyone is extremely comfortable throwing to him, understanding that his game calling, and this is one thing, I don’t know if the fans know, just an inside, sometimes when a guy is going through a game, and the pitcher is out there, they have the feel, behind the plate, like Austin does, they have the confidence to call a pitch that might necessarily not be popular, maybe with the staff or anybody watching the game, but he knows that the picture has ultimate confidence in that pitch, on that day,” Hill said.
“So for him to call that and have that kind of sixth sense, if you wanna call it, to understand his pitcher, and his ability to understand his feel, on that specific day…..he definitely has that ability to do that, and that’s why every guy on the staff has ultimate trust in Austin.”
High praise from not only a veteran but cerebral pitcher.
All winter long, many fans wanted the Dodgers to trade for J.T. Realmuto, and with good reason. But the front office deemed the ask from the Marlins to be too high, and I agree. Jon Heyman is reporting that once the Dodgers gave a hard no on Cody Bellinger being involved, the Marlins wanted three high prospects from the Dodgers. Gavin Lux, Dustin May and either Will Smith or Keibert Ruiz. Way too much to give for two years of Realmuto.
So many times what one worries about during the offseason isn’t even an issue during the regular season. Even though we’ve spent so much time worrying about the catcher position this winter, if the pitching staff has high confidence in Barnes, then that’s good enough for me.