He started and ended the 2016 season in Los Angeles, but for four-and-a-half months in between he was watching fireworks in the minors. Austin Barnes has had a couple disappointing cups of coffee in the majors, but that only includes 74 plate appearances over three short stretches. Meanwhile, he has hit a combined .304/.384/.460 in 166 games over the past two seasons at Triple-A Oklahoma City. His game is founded on walks and doubles, so Barnes is a player whose potential value shoots up immensely in leagues that value on-base and slugging percentage. He has also played second base and some third base over the past couple seasons, giving Barnes added real-life utility. Still, playing time will be limited as long as Yasmani Grandal is healthy.
Barnes is the favorite to win the backup catcher job out of spring training. Barnes didn't do much in his limited playing time last season, slashing a meager .156/.270/.188 in 37 plate appearances. That was a small sample size, and there is hope for his bat after he slashed .295/.380/.443 with Triple-A Oklahoma City last season. With Carlos Ruiz gone, Barnes will handle primary backup duties for Yasmani Grandal.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Sunday that Barnes would be recalled from the minors when rosters expand Sept. 1, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Barnes will serve as the Dodgers' No. 3 catcher behind Yasmani Grandal and Carlos Ruiz while also assuming a utility role around the infield. Everyday at-bats won't be in the offing for Barnes, who has slashed .292/.378/.435 over 377 plate appearances at Triple-A Oklahoma City, but given how many injuries the Dodgers have suffered throughout this season, the quality depth he provides won't be taken for granted.
Barnes was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sunday, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports. Barnes had been acting as a utility player and emergency third catcher during his latest stint with the big club, but with the versatile Enrique Hernandez (ribs) cleared to return from the DL, there was no need for the Dodgers to keep both players on the 25-man roster. The 26-year-old Barnes was with the Dodgers for just over a week, recording one hit across four at-bats.
Barnes has been recalled by the Dodgers on Friday. The 26-year-old catcher/infielder has been seeing the ball well at Triple-A Oklahoma City, hitting .333 with two home runs and eight RBI in his last 10 games. Barnes has also compiled 17 stolen bases for Triple-A in 63 games this season. Barnes will play a utility role for the Dodgers while Yasiel Puig is banged up as well as Enrique Hernandez, Trayce Thompson and Andre Either on the disabled list.
Barnes is back in the lineup for Triple-A Oklahoma City after testing negative for concussion symptoms that rose as a result of taking a couple foul balls off his mask during last Saturday's game, Eric Stephen of True Blue LA reports. Barnes is in the lineup, but at second base, so the club seems to want to ease him back into catching. Barnes is batting .298/.396/.409 for Oklahoma City.