BRANDON WAS PUMPED WHEN RACING FOR AN INSIDE THE BALL PARK HOMER AND PUMPED UP THE FANS AT COORS AS A NEW FAV
Brandon Barnes in 2014 filled a very important role on the Rockies. No, not 5th/6th outfielder. Not pinch-hitter, which at Coors he was quite good at the hardest job in baseball. No, he filled the “my favorite player is a sub who I think should play more” role. Let’s go back to the early days of the Rockies where the first player to fill this role was my favorite Rockie – Mike Kingery. We can’t count 1993 because in reality the whole team was a bunch of subs (save as it turned out to Gallarga, the guy many experts thought was done in baseball). So in 1994 we fell in love with Kingery, the somewhat fleet footed outfielder who played quite a few games in center at old Mile High. Kingery eventually got the starting slot, making all the fans forget Alex Cole (thank you Mike). He had 346 Abs in 2004, hitting a team best .349. Ellis Burks became the starting CF in 1994 but played only 42 games that year, but there was Kingery to prove he “should be starting.” In 1995 he got to start and hit .269, proving he shouldn’t start. But that was okay because by 1995 we had a new hero – John Vander Wal, histories greatest pinch hitter. Okay, in reality that 1995 had a lot of these guys – Trinidad Hubbard (my guy) and Q McCraken (my wife’s guy) being great examples. In 1996 McCraken got to start more, had more than 300 PA, and hit for a .773 OPS in CF. Over the next few years it was guys like Alan Cockrell (newly asst hitting coach for the Yankees), Jeff Reed behind the plate, Darryl Hamilton, Terry Shumpert (one of my favorite all time Rockies), Juan Pierre (baseball’s lowest OPS for a guy with 2500 hits), Grey Norton, Gabe Kapler, Todd Greene (another back-up catcher), Ryan Shealy, Ryan Spillborghs, Jamey Carroll, Jeff Baker, and EY Jr., and now Barnes (sorry, I love history, and that is a whose-who of names we all love).
So when the Rockies traded the popular Dexter Fowler for Lyles and Barnes, many thought he was a throw-in, a way for the Rockies to say “hey, we got an outfielder to replace Dex” while really just filling out their AAA roster. But no, I knew looking up his press lines on-line, he was destined to be our next fan favorite sub. The hustle. The Christian-oriented tats. The story of long-term minor league play. He was perfect material for a fan favorite. And he was. Although to start the season he looked like he belonged in Single A. But with his diving catches (he was thought to be a solid defender in Houston but at times his play at Coors was a bit…shaky), hard running, and inside the ball park homers (who didn’t love the one against the Giants), he won the fans heart. Okay, maybe the team would have been better if say Kyle Parker was playing, but Parker needs to be playing everyday, not subbing. So Parker was there giving Cuddy a break in late innings, taking all the key pinch hitting spots. And…he wasn’t half bad for a 5th/6th outfielder.
At home he was a nice player:
64 games 22 starts
142 PA 40 hits 7 2B 3 3B 7 HR 17 RBI 3 SB 0 CS 8 BB 39 K .299 BA .338 OBP .890 OPS .375 BABIP
The Rockies couldn’t be happier with what they got from him. On the road…a little different.
68 games 33 starts
171 PA 35 hits 10 2B 1 3B 1 HR (inside the ballpark) 2 SB 4 CS .222 BA .255 OBP .571 OPS .354 BABIP
Let’s be honest, part of this team’s failure on the road was having to start Barnes 33 times out of the 82 road games. With those numbers maybe 10 starts? Injuries and poor play caused him to play more than the team wanted. In losses his OPS was .649, so again we can see the issues. But in 2015 he cannot play that much on the road without a huge improvement. I think we can agree to that. When you have a .354 BABIP and still hit only .222, you don’t play. Oh, and 7 BB and 61Ks, not good. So, let us agree, his grade at home and on the road are going to be very different.
So, let’s take a look at his pinch hitting numbers:
67 PA 17 Hits 3BB 23 K .279 BA .853 OPS .417 BABIP
Those are decent numbers, but when you have a .417 BABIP while King a third of the time, those numbers are likely to not be repeated again in 2015.
As a sub in-game, we saw similar numbers:
85 PA 26 Hits 5BB 27 K 3HR .338 BA .378 OBP .988 OPS .489 BABIP
So again, a nice player filling in during the game but can we really expect those numbers to repeat? A .489 BABIP is a stretch even for Tulo, and I don’t think Barnes hits the ball as hard as Tulo, do you?
So, what to think, is this a player that should be on the 25 next year? As of now we have CarGo, Stubbs, Corey Dickerson, and Charlie Blackmon as the first 4 guys. You have a different profile for your fifth OF vs. your 3rd or even 4th. Kyle Parker may push his way into that group. But he is not a 5th OF – not good enough defense and needs more PA and playing time. So, he has a good shot in 2015 of being back…but I don’t think we can expect those same numbers we saw in 2014.
Home: B+ – here the grade is based on expectations of a player in his role. Obviously if evaluated as a starter his grade would be more like a C. But as the tough 5th OF/PH role, he earned a solid B+.
Road: D+ – I am being generous here. His defense and hustle were plusses. But he had far too CS for running as much as he did. He struck out too much. He had too little power. He wasn’t playing well enough to get so many PA.
Overall Grade: C+ – I think Barnes was exactly what the team thought he was getting, and he made the fans excited every time he played. Plus bonus – he stayed off the DL!!!! That alone should be worth at least a C. As a 5th OF/PH a C+ may be a little too low, but I just couldn’t see a B- or B for a player who stuck out 1/3 of his PA with an OPS for the season of just .718.
And at least at FanGraphs, Brandon had a .1 WAR, showing he was decently valuable to the team, even with limited playing time.
I do expect Barnes to be the 5th OF again in 2015, and again playing the key role of PH in the 6th or 7th, at least until he fails too much so that another player gets the shot. 2015 will be key though because there are others at AAA and AA who profile as a future 5th OF. But if he gives them another .250 BA season with an OPS of .750, he may become a fixture as well as a fan favorite. And who can blame the fans. Barnes is perfect as everyone’s favorite non-star.