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2017 Dodgers review: Austin Barnes

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Barnes came into his own with a breakout season for the Dodgers in 2017, both at and behind the plate.

What went right

After two years shuttling back and forth from Triple-A Oklahoma City and the majors, Barnes stayed with the big club for the entire 2017 season. He thrived at the plate, hitting .289/.408/.486. It was just the seventh season in franchise history that a Dodger posted a .400 on-base percentage with at least 40 games caught.

Among the 14 Dodgers with 100 or more plate appearances in 2017, Barnes ranked second with a 142 wRC+, trailing only Justin Turner (151).

“With Austin, he’s really matured as a major league player this year,” manager Dave Roberts said in October. “With the confidence that he’s had, he’s grown behind the plate. In the batter’s box, he competes every pitch, hits to all fields.”

Barnes started 12 times in September, his most starts in any month, then wrestled the regular catching job away from Yasmani Grandal in the postseason. Barnes started 13 of the Dodgers’ 15 postseason games, including all seven games of the World Series.

Barnes caught 116 of the club’s 135⅔ defensive innings behind the plate during the postseason (85.5%), after catching 30.3% of the regular season innings.

He also played 21 games at second base, including four starts, and played 76⅔ defensive innings there. Barnes is one of just two players in Dodgers history to play at least 10 games at both catcher and second base in the same season, joining Tom Daly in 1892. Barnes is the only Dodger to play five or more games at both positions in multiple seasons.

Dodgers to play 5 games at 2B & C in the same season

Player Year Second base Catcher
Player Year Second base Catcher
Tom Daly 1892 10 games / 81 innings 27 games / 210 innings
Fred Jacklitsch 1904 8 games / 64 innings 5 games / 37 innings
Lew Ritter 1904 5 games / 41 innings 57 games / 488 innings
Derrel Thomas 1980 18 games / 133 innings 5 games / 31 innings
Austin Barnes 2016 7 games / 22 innings 9 games / 50 innings
Austin Barnes 2017 21 games / 76⅔ innings 55 games / 438⅓ innings
Source: Baseball-Reference

Behind the plate Barnes is considered an expert pitch framer, rating seventh in baseball with 10.3 framing runs above average per Baseball Prospectus, despite his relatively limited innings at catcher.

Barnes was 4-for-8 with a home run, a double, a walk and a steal in the Dodgers’ NLDS sweep the Diamondbacks.

What went wrong

After the NLDS, Barnes was 6-for-38 (.158) with a double and three walks in 12 games against the Cubs and Astros.

Barnes threw out just five of 29 runners attempting to steal (17.2%).

2017 particulars

Age: 27

Stats: .289/.408/.486, 25 extra-base hits in 262 PA, .386 wOBA, 142 wRC+

Salary: $540,000

Game of the year

Barnes was 2-for-5 with a career-best seven RBI on June 30 against the Padres in San Diego, hitting a grand slam in the first inning and a three-run shot in the sixth inning at Petco Park. The Dodgers won 10-4.

Roster status

Barnes has one year, 124 days of major league service time, and could be eligible for salary arbitration either after 2018 (if he is a Super Two, among the top 22% in service time among players with at least two years but not yet three years of service) or 2019. Barnes has one option year remaining, having used options in 2015 and 2016.