A reader requested an opinion on Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Austin Barnes. We aim to please, so here is an updated take.
First, to establish the baseline thinking here is the comment from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Austin Barnes, C-2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 5-10 WT: 190 DOB: December 28, 1989
2012: Grade C; 2013: Grade C+; 2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade B-
Austin Barnes is one of the best kept secrets in baseball. He’s an older prospect but has always performed well and has nothing left to prove in the minors. He is a line drive hitter with excellent strike zone judgment. He has some power. He runs really well for a catcher and can swipe a base. Although he doesn’t have an exceptional arm and isn’t a serial stealer killer, his release is quick enough to keep runners honest and his overall receiving skills are solid. He has experience in the infield and has more than held his own when used at second base. I don’t know what it will take for Barnes to get a job, but at worst he’s a sharp super-utility player and he could start for some teams. Grade B-.
Barnes has had an interesting spring. Through 49 at-bats he's hit just .224, but with a .356 OBP and .469 SLG. He's hit four homers and drawn 10 walks against 13 strikeouts and stolen two bases, so overall this is a fine performance despite the low batting average. He's not being overmatched and it is particularly good to see the high number of walks combined with power. He hit .315/.389/.479 in Triple-A last year and at age 26 he has nothing left at all to prove in the minors.
If anything, the pre-season comment undersells his defensive value: according to Baseball Prospectus metrics, Barnes is actually an outstanding defensive catcher, not merely a solid one. A glove like that behind the plate, combined with the ability to also play the infield, sound OBP production, a few steals, and moderate power, makes him a terrific asset in this era of huge pitching staffs and short benches.
Many good role players don't translate well into fantasy contexts, but Barnes is an exception: he should qualify at multiple positions and contribute in multiple categories.