When the Rockies acquired Brandon Barnes last offseason as part of the Dexter Fowler trade, I was not a happy camper at all. Here's what I had to say about Barnes:
For a team that leaned on its bench so much last year, the Rockies really needed an upgrade to who would be getting that playing time. Instead they got a bench player who will not be an offensive asset for the team and who shouldn't play at all unless it's against lefties. Barnes plays very good defense, but his bat is the kind that you DH for.
I said some things in that article that look pretty silly now, like my evaluation of Charlie Culberson as a better player than Barnes, but let's evaluate if the above statement was accurate for Barnes in 2014. Barnes was coming off of a year in which he had 9 outfield assists and 1.0 dWAR, but he also had a .635 OPS and was much worse against right-handed pitching (.557 OPS). When Barnes broke camp with the team out of Spring Training, I resigned myself for hundreds of plate appearances of offensive futility.
Barnes started off really hot, hitting .345/.419/.418 in 66 April plate appearances - a time in which everyone except Drew Stubbs seemed to be off to a hot start. That hot start was enough to push his year-end OPS to over .700 for the first time in his career. In fact, Barnes was actually quite useful as an offensive player in a couple of circumstances:
- In 142 plate appearances at home, Barnes looked great, hitting .299/.338/.552 with seven of his eight homers and three of his four triples. Combined with the good defense Barnes was providing in the spacious outfield at Coors, that's an excellent asset for the Rockies.
- In 85 plate appearances as a substitute - whether he entered as a pinch hitter or a defensive replacement - Barnes seemed to excel. The 28 year-old hit an unconscious .338/.378/.610 in a bench role this year, including three homers and all four of his triples. For a Rockies team that had struggled to find offense in late innings off the bench since trading away Seth Smith, that was a welcome surprise.
* -- Defensive runs saved above average (provided by Baseball Info Solutions)
Interestingly though, Barnes was actually more potent against right-handers (.767 OPS, 191 PAs) than he was against lefties (.639 OPS, 122 PAs) - a complete reversal of fortune for the beginning of his career. One thing that wasn't a reversal was his road hitting. On the road, Barnes was one of the worst hitters in MLB, posting a woeful .222/.255/.316 line (58 wRC+) in 171 PAs.
His one homer on the road was pretty memorable though:
And that was the thing about Barnes - he didn't produce a whole lot this year for the Rockies, but when he did produce it seemed to be in strangely awesome ways. Like this:
That combined with his story, as told wonderfully by RIRF, make it hard not to like Barnes.
2014 Grade: C+
I didn't really talk too much about the above average defense Barnes provided at home and on the road, but that's a big reason why he ranks so highly in this series. Barnes spent the majority of his time in right field, where he helped the Rockies out with his range and arm. In all, Barnes was an adequate reserve player who gets a bump for some dramatic/funny moments in 2014.
What to expect in 2015
At this point, we know what we have in Barnes. He's a player who will hit well at Coors and abysmally on the road. He's someone who doesn't mind coming off the bench, but who should really not be starting games for a contending team. He's a good outfielder, but his offensive deficiencies mean he'll never be a regular. Barring a surprise, Barnes will again be a reserve outfielder for the Rockies in 2015, providing similar value on defense and probably on offense too. I'll be rooting for him.