Maybe Austin Barnes Can Be The Answer At Catcher

What if, and hear me out here, but what if Austin Barnes actually can be the Dodgers answer at catcher in 2019?




Barnes, 29 in December, was a disappointment in 2018. I wish there was a way to sugar coat it, but sadly, there’s not. Having come off of a year where he took Yasmani Grandal’s job by season’s end, expectations were high entering spring training in 2018.

Never known as a offensive force in spring training over his career, his .111 batting average in 2018 didn’t appear to warrant a red flag.

Career Stats — Spring Training

89 29 10 .181 .230 .388 .707

Through his first 6 games in 2018 — and I note that we are talking an extremely small sample size — he was batting .429, and all was right with the world. Then reality reared it’s head.

By the end of April, Austin was batting .190 with a .655 OPS while Yasmani Grandal was raking with a .315 AVG and .953 OPS. We had our catcher for 2018.

Of course, now we know how that story turns out… Grandal was hot and cold, relied upon too often (career high 999.1 innings caught) and wore down by season’s end. Again.

But this isn’t an article to condemn Yasmani, there are plenty of them out there already.

Austin Barnes 2017

Apr 9, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes (15) hits a triple in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Some folks may not remember — or perhaps not understand — how exceptional Austin Barnes was in 2017.

He appeared in 102 games while batting .289 with 8 homeruns, all career highs on offense. He started 49 of those games at catcher and had a .994 fielding percentage while throwing out 23% of would-be base stealers.

His .408 on-base percentage would have placed him in the top-10 in all of baseball, if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.

He was also one of the most clutch Dodgers in 2017 batting .328 with runners in scoring position, including .333 with RISP and 2 out.

The advanced stats loved him, which resulted in 2.7 wins above replacement, in only 262 at-bats.

He performed well enough to be rated a top-10 catcher in baseball by MLB Network’s “Shredder” in the off-season (he was number 6). He was primed to show that he was the real deal.

Austin Barnes 2018

After a spring training injury to Justin Turner forced Logan Forsythe to move to third base, Barnes opened 2018 splitting time between catcher and second base.

Some could argue that bouncing back and forth took Austin out of his rhythm. Of course, he also appeared in 21 games at 2B in 2017. Whatever it was, he did not look comfortable at the dish for most of 2018.

After a rough April, as outlined above, and Yasmani Grandal in a zone, perhaps Barnes was pressing trying to prove himself once again.

While the batting average was down, he was still getting on base at an impressive .386 clip through April and May. By June, his season took a dramatic nose dive, and he never recovered.

All told, his 2018 season looked like this:

100 41 4 .205 .329 .290 .619

Looking Forward

When it comes to catcher, we know the names that are out on the open market. We also have an idea of who may be coming down the road.  But we don’t yet know who will be the primary guy to suit up in 2019.

You can go out and sign an aging guy like Jonathan Lucroy, coming off a season where he OPS’d .617 for $6.5mm.

You can trade away a kings ransom for JT Realmuto.

Or you can roll the dice again and see which version of Austin Barnes is the real deal… 2017, or 2018.

More Barnes at Dodgers Nation


Clint Pasillas

Clint Pasillas has been writing, blogging, and podcasting about the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2008. Under Clint's leadership as the Lead Editor, Dodgers Nation has grown into one of the most read baseball sites in the world with millions of unique visitors per month. Find him online on Twitter/X or his YouTube channel!


  1. Let’s see what Barnes can do in ST. But in any event catching in 2019 will be a position where most likely offense won’t be expected as much, and certainly if Barnes is given the starting job. Somehow I can see Dodgers doing a gap filling move while those minor league catchers get another year under their belts.

  2. If we improve at ss and 2b and bullpen we could settle for a really good defensive catcher and hope for the best offensively. We’d still need a backup, AJEllis to catch Clayton?

  3. Clint, I stand by Barnsey! And I agree, that we should NOT trade a Kings Ransom for Realmuto. It’s just not worth it. Barnes’ catching prowess is enough to keep him in the game, and getting back into a rhythm just might be what triggers his Offense. However, the value provided behind the plate is well worth the sacrifice, even if his Offense does not come back up to par. One other thing to note, our Pitchers already have a working relationship with Barnes, and vice versa. That connection is something that is refined with time. A new catcher, regardless of how good, will take time to develop that relationship with our pitchers. That is something Barnes already has. I say no Kings Ransom for Realmuto!

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