Brandon Barnes was somewhat of a mystery heading into this season.
Brandon Barnes (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
The 27-year old made his major league debut towards the end of last season when the Astros were honestly just struggling to fill a major league roster. Just about any player with value was traded off for prospects, and almost by default Barnes got the call to join the Astros.
Now this is not to take anything away from Barnes as based on his 2012 performance in AA and AAA he certainly deserved it. But the outfielder was never part of the discussion when the Astros were projecting their future lineup.
After hitting .204 in 43 games with the Astros and showing flashes of potential, Barnes was on the radar of Bo Porter and Jeff Luhnow entering Spring Training.
Barnes continued to have success, and forced his way onto the Astros to begin the season. The outfielder is just one of those valuable players that does a little bit of everything and is very useful when constructing your team. He can get on base, steal a base, hit for a little power, but more importantly plays an excellent center field defensively. From an offensive perspective, Barnes does just enough at the plate to force his way into the lineup. But he really shines once he reaches base or plays center field.
Players like Barnes are a vital part of building a team. The problem though, is that Barnes is more of a fourth outfielder than anything else and it appears that he has been exposed by playing everyday.
He started the season in that role, but due to a myriad of reasons, his playing time began to increase. It was due to a combination of Barnes’ success, the injuries to Justin Maxwell, and the poor performance of Robbie Grossman and others in the outfield.
I for one, advocated giving Barnes more playing time early in the season. It seemed that whenever he was on the field, he made something happen. Whether it was a game saving catch in Detroit, or a play on the bases, Barnes was always part of key moments. You need players like him on your team to win. The problem though, is that Barnes might not be good enough to play everyday.
After hitting .375 in April, it has all gone downhill for Barnes. He hit .209 in May followed by .239 in June, and .083 so far in July. Of greater concern, is his .191 average against RHP compared to .314 against LHP. If that does not scream platoon, I am not sure what does.
At this point, the Astros are pretty much stuck with Barnes playing everyday. That will likely change quickly once George Springer is promoted and now that Maxwell is healthy once again. Of course, it is possible that Maxwell gets traded before the end of the month, but that is a different story.
Over the next few years, I think Barnes should have a role with this team. He is the perfect late game option whether it be for defense of speed, plus he has value as a platoon player against left handed pitching. But anything more than that, and Barnes will be exposed.