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Ranking the Rockies: No. 49 Brandon Barnes failed to build on hot start, became liability

Brandon Barnes' production at the plate disappeared in August and September, resulting in a well-below-average season.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When Brandon Barnes was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque on May 20, the Colorado Rockies sat at 14-23 and were losers of 15 of their previous 19 games.

With quite a bit of help from the 29-year-old reserve outfielder, Colorado finished the month 8-3. In those games, Barnes hit .313/.333/.469 in 33 plate appearances while doing his best to loosen up what had become a tense environment due to all of the losing, trade rumors involving the team's star player and other factors.

During that mini-run, Barnes' all-out style of play on the field and positive demeanor off of it served as a significant source of ignition for the Rockies.

"I play with passion," Barnes told Purple Row shortly after his promotion in May. "Sometimes it gets the best of me, and sometimes it gets me and the team going. Either way, I come here to have fun."

Barnes continued to perform well in part-time duty into July, walking nearly as many times as he struck out while hitting .273 and posting a .361 on-base percentage through his first 50 games of the season. Unfortunately, once August hit, Barnes' production fell off a cliff.

Over the final two months of 2015, Barnes hit just .190/.225/.286, drawing only one unintentional walk and striking out 31 times in 89 plate appearances during that stretch. Worse, Barnes wasn't able to provide a repeat performance in an area that was his biggest strength in 2014: pinch hitting.

That's not necessarily his fault, though.

After posting a .279/.313/.541 line with a league-leading 17 pinch hits in 67 opportunities in 2014, Barnes notched just two hits in 13 plate appearances in those situations this year. Because of an injury to Corey Dickerson, the Rockies were forced to rely on Barnes on a full-time basis much more in 2015 than in the previous year, but in doing so, they failed to put him in positions where he had proven himself in the past.

In all, Barnes finished 2015 a .251/.314/.341 hitter and was five runs below average in the outfield. Those things contributed to -1.1 rWAR, which was third worst on the team, behind only Wilin Rosario and Kyle Parker.

To put Barnes' poor offensive performance into perspective, his wRC+ of 62 ranked 292nd of 311 major league players to accumulate 250 or more plate appearances in 2015.

What's next?

Barnes is arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason, meaning he'll no longer be paid the league minimum to provide below-replacement-level production. As such, the Rockies will have a decision to make. Paying Barnes $1.2 million -- as he's projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn next season -- might not be a terrible idea, especially if the Rockies trade Carlos Gonzalez. In that case, they'd need to bridge the gap from CarGo to David Dahl/Jordan Patterson/another prospect Colorado might deem ready by 2017-2018.

But it's also worth noting that the Rockies might be able to get similar production from a minor league free agent or, if they decide to go this route, a more big league-ready prospect acquired in a trade.