Austin Barnes became a fan favorite for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his breakout 2017 season, although he unfortunately was not able to replicate that success over the next two years.
With the emergence of young star catcher Will Smith in 2019, Barnes went into 2020 as the team’s backup.
As the season played out, it was essentially a 50-50 timeshare behind the plate between Barnes and Smith. The former played in 29 of the team’s 60 games, starting 27 of them. Barnes hit .244/.353/.314 with a home run and nine RBI, demonstrating an ability to get on base at a high clip despite his lack of power.
Barnes’ defensive prowess and ability to handle the Dodgers’ pitching staff has been well-documented over the years, so by the time the postseason rolled around, he continued to earn more playing time behind the plate.
When Barnes continued to swing a hot bat in October, he essentially took over as the team’s everyday catcher with Smith often serving as the designated hitter.
Barnes wound up being one of the Dodgers’ unsung heroes during their 2020 World Series run. In 10 postseason games, he hit .320/.393/.440 with a home run, three RBI and four runs scored.
That is in addition to being great behind the plate, which was huge for a young Dodgers pitching staff that featured many arms pitching in October for the first time. Barnes was behind the plate for the final out in Game 6 of the World Series, catching a perfect strike from Julio Urias to get Willy Adames looking to clinch the championship.
Barnes had all of his talent on display in the Dodgers’ 6-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 3 of the World Series.
With the Dodgers leading 3-0 in the fourth inning, Barnes stepped to the plate with runners at the corners and one out. He proceeded to drop down a perfect safety squeeze bunt to the first base side, driving in a run.
Then in Barnes’ next at-bat in the sixth inning, he launched a solo home run to left-center field to account for his only home run of the postseason and extend the lead to 6-1.
Barnes is still under club control for two more seasons and will likely be returning to fill a similar role as he did in a catching tandem with Smith this year.
With top prospect Keibert Ruiz nearing Major League ready, it will be interesting to see if the Dodgers entertain the idea of trading Barnes this offseason. But the 30-year-old certainly proved his value during their World Series run, so it is hard to imagine them parting ways with someone that important to the organization.
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