Astros centerfielder Brandon Barnes spent part of his winter playing in the Venezuelan League. Barnes posted a .292/.353/.491 slash line in 28 games with Leones del Caracas. Brandon had ten extra-base hits, including four homers, in 106 at-bats. He also collected a total of 20 RBIs. Barnes returned home safely a week ago in time to take a vacation and spend Thanksgiving with his family.
Barnes is no stranger to winter league baseball in foreign lands. He spent last winter playing for the Sydney Blue Sox of the Australian Baseball League. In 29 games Barnes hit six homers, drove in 30 runs, and was named Sydney’s offensive MVP. His success “down under” may have helped to revive Barnes’ career with the Astros.
Houston originally drafted Barnes in the sixth round of the 2005 draft. Although he showed flashes of power in the minors, Barnes progressed through the system somewhat slowly. His strikeout rate remained high, making it difficult to get overly excited about the power numbers he was producing against inexperienced pitchers.
Barnes parlayed his Australian success into an invite to Spring Training with the Astros in 2012. He was sent to AA Corpus Christi to start the season and earned a promotion to AAA Oklahoma City after 44 games. Barnes continued to produce outstanding numbers and was called up by the Astros in early August.
Barnes was unable to duplicate his minor league success at the plate, but his defensive prowess could not be ignored. Barnes showed tremendous range in centerfield, making several highlight reel catches of would-be extra-base hits.
Although he struggled to produce offensively at the big league level, the Astros thought enough of Barnes to part ways with Jordan Schafer. With last year’s Opening Day starter out of the picture Barnes is a candidate to be the Astros starter in centerfield on Opening Day 2013. Barring any offseason acquisitions, Barnes’ most likely competition for the job will come from Jimmy Paredes and Che-Hsuan Lin. It should be one of the most interesting position battles of the spring.
Entering his age 27 season, Barnes’ future with the team is anything but certain. His defensive ability should give him a leg up on the competition for the centerfield job, but I’m not sure how long the Astros will wait if he doesn’t start living up to his potential with the bat.
Barnes is a tremendous young man and a friend of CTH. He was kind enough to grant us an interview earlier this winter. Be sure and check it out. We wish continued success for Brandon in the future, whether it comes with the Astros or elsewhere.