Prospect of the Day: Scott Barnes, LHP, Cleveland Indians
If you're looking for a sleeper pitching prospect, take a look at Cleveland Indians lefty Scott Barnes, currently pitching for Triple-A Columbus in the International League. (NOTE: after I wrote this article, news came out that Barnes hurt his knee in his last start and will miss the rest of the season.)
Barnes was originally drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the eighth round in 2008, from St. John's University. A three-year starter for the Red Storm, Barnes looked like a possible second or third round pick after a 7-2, 2.93, 99/34 K/BB in 95 IP sophomore season in '07, but an erratic spring in '08 hurt his stock somewhat, although he still put up good numbers (3.69 ERA, 90/45 K/BB in 90 IP, just 69 hits). He performed brilliantly in six Sally League starts after signing, posting a 1.38 ERA with a 41/7 K/BB in 32 innings with just 15 hits allowed for Augusta.
The Giants moved him up to High-A San Jose in '09 with strong results (12-3, 2.85, 99/29 K/BB in 98 IP, 82 hits), but he was traded to the Indians in late July for Ryan Garko. Barnes struggled with a transition to Double-A after the trade, posting a 5.68 ERA with a 29/14 K/BB in 32 innings. He returned to Akron in '10 and posted a 5.22 ERA last year, which kept him off a lot of prospect lists entering 2011.
However, that 5.22 ERA was misleading. In 138 innings last year, he posted a 127/58 K/BB ratio and gave up just 126 hits. His FIP was much better at 4.23, and he looked great in the Arizona Fall League last November, posting a 28/7 K/BB in 25 innings. I rated him in my book this year as a Grade C+ but with a chance to break through.
Barnes began '11 with two outstanding starts for Akron, earning a promotion to Columbus where he currently stands 7-4, 3.68, with a 90/34 K/BB in 88 innings and 80 hits. Overall at the two levels, he's got a 3.45 ERA with a 107/36 K/BB in 99 innings, 85 hits.
The southpaw is tall and thin at 6-4, 185 pounds. His mechanics are a bit unusual and he throws across his body at times, but he's deceptive and has been quite durable. His fastball normally ranges between 89 and 93 MPH, although he's reportedly hit 95-96 at times this year. Even at the lower velocities his fastball plays up, due to the contrast with his curve, slider, and changeup, all three secondary pitches being quite solid. His changeup draws the best reviews, but the breaking pitches have improved substantially over the last year. His control can be erratic, but he collects plenty of strikeouts and has maintained a strong K/IP ratio at all levels.
Barnes' biggest problem is a tendency to leave pitches over the fat part of the plate, making him gopher-vulnerable when his command is off. However, he's shown the ability to make needed adjustments. He isn't on the 40-man roster yet, and with the knee injury he won't see the majors until 2012, but Barnes has the markers of a pitcher who could end up surprising a lot of people.