2017 does not feel very long ago, but if you compare the Dodgers roster then to the roster now, you would think this is an entirely new era. There are only three names that you would find on both rosters (Justin Turner is a free agent): Clayton Kershaw, Chris Taylor, and Austin Barnes.
Barnes made his debut for the Dodgers in 2015, four years after being drafted in the 9th round out of Arizona State University by the then Florida Marlins. If you recall, the Dodgers and Marlins made a big trade in December of 2014. Essentially, the Dodgers traded Dee Gordon and Miguel Rojas for Andrew Heaney, who was immediately flipped to the Angels for Howie Kendrick.
What you may not know, is that the Dodgers got two supplementary pieces in that deal who go by the names of Kiké Hernandez and Austin Barnes. Barnes split time with Yasmani Grandal in his first few years and is now the backup catcher to Will Smith.
The expectations surrounding Barnes have always been changing. He came into the league as a career .300 minor league hitter and his bat was a tool that the Dodgers were very excited about. In his first full season, 2017, the bat showed up. Barnes hit .289 but has struggled to find that production since. Nowadays, he serves as Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher and slides in every third day or so to give Smith’s legs a rest.
Barnes appeared in sixty-two games in 2022 and did a very good job of playing the “backup catcher” role. If there is one thing that Austin Barnes does well, it is manage a pitching staff. Frankly, it’s the only reason he still has a job. Since his first full season in 2017, Barnes’ average has hovered around .200. If it wasn’t for the job he does with the pitchers, managing the staff and knowing how to call a great game, he would’ve been let go by now. There’s a reason that Kersh would rather throw to Barnes than anyone else.
The year started off very hot for Barnes. He homered in each of his first two starts and through May 21, had hit four home runs in forty-five at bats. He would go homer-less for the next few months, with his next coming on August 17 in Milwaukee.
Barnes is never going to be the “flashy” player that has fans on the edge of their seat. But that being said, he does the little things right and goes about his business every single day like a professional. He was able to stay healthy all year, avoiding the injured list once again.
Barnes made the thirty-second postseason start of his career in Game 3 of the NLDS. He always seems to find a way to come through in the postseason (.333 hitter spanning last three postseasons), and last season was no different. In his only 2022 postseason start, Barnes went 2-2 with a double in a losing effort.
Simply put, Barnes is a glue guy that has been a staple of this organization for a very long time. Another solid year out of Barnesy.
Stats: .212/.324/.380, .704 OPS, 8 HR (ties career-high), 26 RBI
Salary: $2.6 million
Game of the year
As previously mentioned, it’s hard to start a year better than Austin Barnes did in 2022. After Will Smith got the Opening Day start, Barnes started the second game of the year. In his first at-bat of the year, Barnes blasted a game-tying home run over the wall in left field. In the eighth inning, Barnes’ single moved Gavin Lux to third base who would go on to score the tying run on a Mookie Betts single.
Barnesy sent that a mile high. pic.twitter.com/M6joeLH3PL— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 10, 2022
Barnes was supposed to be a free agent this offseason but was signed to a two-year, $7 million contract back in July that keeps him in Dodger blue through the 2024 season.