Dodgers News: Austin Barnes To Move Around Infield
Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Austin Barnes, acquired in the Dee Gordon trade back in December 2014, has played 284 of his 570 career minor league games at catcher. So, how does the big league club want him to get ready for a life in the Majors? By playing second base and third base, of course.
Now, to be fair, Barnes has had experience at each of those two positions. Barnes spent 151 games at second base thus far in his minor league career, and he spent 16 at third base. Those are the three positions he’s played. And, due to that, the Dodgers want him to be a versatile player.
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From ESPN Senior Staff Writer Doug Padilla:
The 26-year old Riverside native is certainly going to get every opportunity during Spring Training to make a major impact. Whether that happens at catcher, second base, or third base remains to be seen, but his level of versatility is one that the team is certainly happy about.
Barnes only hit .207 in a brief stint in The Show last season, but he did post a .361 on-base percentage in 37 plate appearances. With Yasmani Grandal at catcher right now, Barnes’ added value of being able to play other positions lends itself to helping the team in a lot of ways.
With Justin Turner’s injury, and Howie Kendrick being able to slide over to first base if Adrian Gonzalez needs a day off, Barnes can man second or third base if needed. And that type of versatility is something that a lot of teams would kill to have. He can play three positions, and play them well.
Whether Barnes turns into something substantial down the road remains to be seen, but this type of ability to make an impact in multiple ways at multiple positions shouldn’t be looked down upon. He, essentially, acts as three players in one, and it gives manager Dave Roberts a ton of options.
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I recognize that Austin Barnes is athletic enough to play in a utility role. But at some point the Dodgers need to decide if he is a catcher or infield utility who can handle catching when necessary. I agree that the presence of a third catcher is an advantage, but the 25 man limits the number of bench/sub/platoon roles available. Considering that there are 12 pitchers (5 SP and 7 RP), and 8 regular position players, that would leave room for 5 additional role players; one catcher (AJ Ellis), two infielders (Hernandez and Utley) and two outfielders (CC or Ethier and SVS). The Dodgers already have a super utility player in Kike’ Hernandez. Who would Barnes replace? I would rather see Barnes go back to OKC to be the catcher for the top prospect pitching that is on the cusp of the ML roster (Urias, De Leon, Montas, Cotton, Stripling…). That will make him valuable when they pitchers get to LA in September or 2017. This could develop a mutual comfort level between pitcher and catcher at the ML level when Barnes gets to LA for good in September. He will become the backup to Grandal in 2017. I do not see Ellis coming back, meaning Grandal will be catching Kershaw more this year.