Mike Scioscia, Mike Piazza, Paul Lo Duca, Yasmani Grandal, and Austin Barnes… well, maybe Barnes isn't quite in that category of All-Star Dodgers catchers yet, but the 25-year-old catching prospect is sure on the rise after his first full season in the Dodgers' farm system.
Barnes might not be ready for the "franchise tag" quite yet, but the young prospect who was acquired by the Dodgers from the Miami Marlins last winter in a trade that sent Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to South Beach in exchange for Kiké Hernandez, Chris Hatcher, Andrew Heaney and Barnes, is still on LA's radar as a future catcher.
Barnes made his Major League debut earlier this year on May 24, when Grandal was placed on the 7-day concussion disabled list. Things did not necessarily go the Dodgers way as they lost in a lopsided game to the San Diego Padres 11-3. Nevertheless, Barnes had his moments, and impressed behind the plate.
"Getting the first one out of the way was great," Barnes said after that game. "I grew up playing the game. You want to get your first big league hit. You don't like losing the game like that, but it is what it is."
Barnes spent most of 2015 in Triple-A where he played 81 games for Oklahoma City, batting .315 with nine home runs and 42 RBIs. The Riverside, CA native was called up in September when the major league rosters expanded to 40 players, and he started behind the plate on Wednesday, during the finale of the Freeway Series with the Anaheim Angels.
"I caught a lot of these guys in spring," Barnes said about joining the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Mike Bolsinger and others. "I still remember them. I was going over hitters with Rick Honeycutt this morning and still remembered what we wanted each pitcher to do."
His Triple-A teammates are happy that Barnes is back with the club and even though making the postseason roster seems slim, they hope he will be with the team next season.
"He gets to know all his pitchers," Bolsinger said of Barnes. "He really goes out of his way to find out what type of pitcher you are. I think that's what makes a good catcher. You're dealing with new people every day. It's not like up here when you're dealing with a set of people. You're catching a new pitcher almost every start, especially down there with was going on up here. He did well."
Wednesday's starter Joe Wieland agreed.
"He knows what I like to throw and I know what he likes to call," Wieland said. "It's an easy feeling when he's behind the plate. We're on the same page."
Barnes was drafted in the ninth-round in 2011 out of Arizona State where he played second and third base. He never played catcher until he was asked to get behind the plate in his first full season in the minor leagues.
"I thought I could do it," Barnes said. "I just believed that I could become a full-time catcher. I do like playing the infield, but I just believed I could do it. I thought I could hit back there too and hopefully my success continues."
Barnes finished 0-for-1 with a walk and a stolen base on Wednesday against the Angels.