Thursday, December 20, 2012

Barrett Barnes

Growing up in Sugarland, Texas, Barrett Barnes was focused on one goal: to play major league baseball. Barnes' uncle Anthony Young fueled his big league dreams. The Houston-born righty pitched 460 innings (15-48/3.89) in six MLB seasons with the Mets, Cubs and Astros between 1991-96 and gave Barnes a face to his dream. After graduating from Austin High undrafted, Barnes moved on to play ball in the Big 12 for Texas Tech.

In his three year career at Lubbock, Barnes started all 169 games the Red Raiders' played during his stay. He became only the second player in Tech history to bat .300, record 500 at bats, score 150 runs, collect 200 hits, 50 doubles, 30 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 walks and 50 stolen bases, joining Raider alum Clint Bryant (1993-96).

He ranks fifth in school history in doubles (51), runs (171) and total bases (371), sixth in walks (113), seventh in at bats (637), ninth in home runs (33) and tied for ninth in hits (203). Barnes became the fourth player in school history to earn All-Big 12 honors in three consecutive seasons; he was second-team in 2010 and first-team in both 2011 and 2012.

One of the more highly recognized players in school history, Barnes received 58 individual awards, honors and recognitions while a Red Raider, including Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2010, numerous Freshman All-America teams and four preseason All-America squads.

So while he may have been a somewhat unknown name to Pirate fans, the scouts had the 6'1" 210 lb. outfielder squarely on their radar.

The Brewers and Padres showed some early round interest in him while Bucs hadn't spoken to Barnes at all before the draft, but no matter. They had a five minute phone chat with him a few selections before they went on the clock during the sandwich round (his slot was compensation for the Dewey free agent loss), agreed on $1M bonus, and viola - the 45th overall pick was in the fold. He made it official on June 14th, accepting a nudge under the slot amount of $1,136,400.

Jonathan Mayo of had him as the #57 player on his board (Baseball America had him at #41), and wrote this about him: "Before every Draft, college hitters who perform well move up boards late and end up being taken much sooner than many anticipated at the start of the spring. The more Barnes hit in 2012, the more his name was on the rise."

"Strong and athletic, Barnes is a little raw as a baseball player, but he has some offensive upside. His best tools are his raw power and his speed, and some of both have shown up in his performance this year. A center fielder currently, Barnes might be best suited for a corner spot when all is said and done. That might mean left field, as his arm is fringy average. He gets high marks for his intensity on the field."

The Pirates started him at short season State College, and he had a dismal June. But the Texan heated up with the weather, and the 21 year old finished with a slash of .288/.401/.456 with five homers, 24 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 38 games. It wasn't all roses; his season ended in early August when a sprained ankle led to a stress fracture, ending his rookie campaign. Still, he showed enough that Baseball America rated Barnes as the 10th best prospect in the New York-Penn League even missing a month of action.

As with all lower level players, he's raw and still has a punchlist to complete. Barnes played center in college and at State College, but he's projected to be a corner outfielder because of his average arm strength. That's OK, especially for the Pittsburgh template; his range makes him the prototypical left fielder for the organization.

The bigger question is whether he can make consistent contact as he advances. While his K-to-walk rate was sweet for the Spikes (21/17), he is a swing-and-miss guy though willing to take a free pass. His power stroke also comes with a caveat. Barnes is a RH pull hitter, and that doesn't translate so well at PNC Park.

His speed is good, but not plus. He has enough to plug into any of the three OF spots, but it showed up in his stolen base success in the pros. Barnes was an excellent 50-for-56 in stolen base attempts at Tech, but just 10-of-16 (63%) for the Spikes, so he has some work to put into that aspect of his game.

With that, his glove, bat speed and raw power make him a guy to watch. Barnes is one of those rare animals in the Pirate system, a true three hitter who projects as fitting into the middle of the lineup. If he reaches his projected ceiling, we've seen comparisons of him to a budding Nolan Reimold or Marlon Byrd. At any rate, he joins Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell as the lower level trinity of the OF class.

If there are no lingering affects from the ankle injury (and it's reported to be healing on schedule), the Pirate MO is to skip a level for their top guys in short season ball, so we'd expect him to bypass West Virginia and open 2013 in High A Bradenton, a good spot for a 21 year old (his birthday is July 29th) prospect.


WilliamJPellas said...

This guy sounds kind of Steve Swisher-ish, except of course that unlike Swisher, he's not a switch hitter. But otherwise the same kind of good but not great average, good but not great power, good eye, and good but not great speed. In short, probably a good but not great big leaguer in the making! Which would be...umm, great! :-D

Ron Ieraci said...

His ceiling isn't too shabby, Will, and thanks for the comment - I had forget to include that some names he's been compared to if he hits on all cylinders are Nolan Reimold of the Orioles and the much traveled Marlon Byrd. It'll be awhile before we see if that's so, but at least it's encouraging to see some position players with upside in the organization.