After Countless Injuries, Barrett Barnes Needs a Drastic Change to Revive His Career

Last year there were 20 players in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league system who received more than 423 plate appearances during the season. This doesn’t include players like Gregory Polanco, who went on to top that number when you include his time in the majors. It also doesn’t include guys like Chris Dickerson, who had more than 423 plate appearances in the season when you count their time with other organizations.

So why is 423 significant?

That’s the number of plate appearances that Barrett Barnes has had in his career. Barnes was drafted out of college as a first round compensation pick in the 2012 draft, taken with the pick the Pirates received for losing Ryan Doumit. He signed quickly after the draft, receiving a $1,000,000 bonus. And in the two and a half years since signing, he has barely put up a full season of plate appearances in pro ball.

The reason for this has been an onslaught of injuries. His debut in 2012 was cut short due to a stress fracture in his leg at the end of July, putting him out for the final month of the season. He dealt with back stiffness in Spring Training in 2013, which delayed his debut until the end of April. His debut was short-lived, as he went down with a right hamstring injury in May. He was out for the year after straining the same hamstring in mid-July.

The 2014 season was similar to the 2013 season. In the fourth game of the year at West Virginia, he injured his hamstring running to first base. He didn’t return until mid-July, and was pushed up to Bradenton to advance his career, even though he only had 50 games in West Virginia. The promotion to Bradenton didn’t last long, as he went down with an oblique strain after six games, and was out for the year.

Barnes has a lot of potential. He’s got a lot of bat speed, and is able to generate some power. He can play center field due to his range, but his lack of arm strength probably limits him to a future in left field. The biggest issue is that he has never been on the field long enough to develop his game.

This off-season, Barnes took steps to try to prevent his injury problems. He cut down on his off-season workload, and just focused on taking better care of his body. He said coming into camp that he’s feeling better than he has for a long time, although offered up the obvious disclaimer that we would have to see how it plays out during the season.

“The workload and the training regimen, everything has to be done differently,” Barnes said of the changes. “Because obviously the things we were doing in the past weren’t successful for the business that we’re in. Everything has been flipped upside down right now for me. But if you don’t make drastic changes, you can’t get drastic results. And I need something drastic right now.”

Barnes will return to Bradenton for his age 23 season. He turns 24 at the end of July. That’s not drastically old for a player in High-A to be considered a prospect. But he definitely needs something drastic right now, and will need to finish in Altoona by the end of the year — preferably in the second half — to save his prospect status. In order to do that, he’s going to need to stay on the field long enough to actually get some development time.

“I think everyone in the organization is waiting for me to get some development time,” Barnes said with a laugh. “I was an investment a few years ago, and am still an investment. And I also have dreams and aspirations to play in the big leagues, and that holds me back. It holds them back from making me advance up the stages, and getting ready for Pittsburgh. So I think we’re all waiting to see what it all pans out in the full season, because we don’t know.”

Barnes is going to be in a talented outfield in Bradenton, joined by Austin Meadows and Harold Ramirez. All three are center fielders, and all three received seven-figure bonuses. Meadows figures to get the bulk of the playing time in center, but Ramirez and Barnes could also factor into the mix.

“If you look at it with me, Meadows, and Harold Ramirez, those are three big investments that play center field,” Barnes said. “So you’re not going to sit somebody for somebody else, considering we’re all pretty young and developing. That’s going to be an upstairs decision, but I assume there’s going to be some sort of rotation to get us all acclimated to all three positions.”

The position Barnes plays won’t be that big of a deal. The biggest deal will be keeping him healthy, and allowing his bat to finally develop. At this point, the Pirates have enough outfield talent in the majors and the minors that any production from Barnes would be a bonus. But he’s still a guy who has the raw talent to make it to the majors, even with so many injuries in his past.

“Everyone is just trying to play and make it somewhere,” Barnes said. “Everyone has the same goal, to play in the big leagues. How you get there, whatever position you’re at — at the end of it you don’t really care about that.”

  • Tony Ventimiglio
    March 12, 2015 2:52 pm

    We see a growing number of guys that get the “Injury Prone” label. It seems to me with today’s technologies, diagnostic ability, scientific knowledge and training capabilities that repeated injuries should be able to be avoided. With all of the advanced knowledge, how do guys get repeated hamstring injuries? Is it really that they dont follow advice?

    • Advanced technology also means players are able to know they have an injury and not try to play through it and either play worse or injure themselves worse. Even with the most advanced training teams the human body just wont go through 140+ games without muscle pulls. Its 6 months of non stop intense work on the body, so i never really get surprised with hammy pulls or tweaked ankles.

      • Tony Ventimiglio
        March 12, 2015 4:25 pm

        Yes, I understand, but, it does not explain why certain guys are afflicted worse than others, particularly with 1 body part getting injured repeatedly. The diagnostics, rehab and continued treatment and exercise should alleviate that, yet, it seems Barnes (as well as guys like Tabata) get the same injury to the same body part repeatedly. It also doesnt seem that players in the 60s and 70s suffered those issues to the same extent yet we knew a lot less about rehabbing and diagnostics then

        • Its just as likely that the reason you didnt see players 40 years ago claim those injuries is they simply ignored them and played hurt. Which seems tough, but the game today pays players too much for a team to want its players consistently playing injured rather than taking time off and getting healthy.

          Its possible something in how players train today may make some of them more apt to certain kinds of injuries, but i also just imagine that a ton of guys 40 years ago had these injuries and just didnt tell anyone and played hurt…which usually means played a bit below their ability during that time.

        • I think some injuries have a nature which lend to repeating themselves. Hamstrings, I suspect, are one such injury. Groins are another. Concussions, obviously, are somehow additive in their short- and long-term effects.

          • Tony Ventimiglio
            March 12, 2015 5:39 pm

            I understand that Concussions that are not controllable. It just seems to me that there should be some way to improve conditioning and/or better strengthen Hamstrings and groins. I can see Catchers dealing with those due to the extra strain of the position, but, OF and IF should be able to due enough in their training to correct the issues. I am far from an expert though.

  • Separating myself from the injury storyline, I do like the idea of getting all three of these talented outfielders in Bradenton experience at all three outfield positions, since we don’t know where we’ll need them in the Majors. It’s a nice problem/luxury to have.

  • There are some variables that would be hard to define, but I’d like to see an overview of the direction of picks draft under the last five years of the Type A, Type B free agent system. What teams were the picks actually flowing to, I know the standard line is the Rays broke the system so the MLB had to punish small market teams, but is that actually accurate?

    Doumit wasn’t a very good catcher, the worst framer in baseball, and was about a league average hitter, and maybe it is hindsight but getting a compensation pick for not signing seem like a huge win for the Pirates.

    • The reason the Rays are mentioned is because they were trading for pending free agents in the off-season for the sole purpose of tendering them arbitration and getting a comp pick.

      • Yes I’m familar with that, they were trading for relievers, that were Type B guys. I’m just wondering what teams were benefiting overall, the current QO system seems to be larger revenue teams shuffling picks around.

  • I hope he stays healthy in 2015 and shows why he was drafted so highly. I agree, this year is almost make or break for him….

  • Still, he is one real good season at High A, a few ABs at AA, and a trip to the fall league away from being back on track.

  • Looks like barnes has the right attitude, a willingness to make changes when things are not working is a positive step in the right direction. All I can say is just keep swingin’ and things will work out.

  • Steel City Scotty
    March 12, 2015 11:48 am

    I’m hoping Barnes can have a healthy season and contribute to the big league club in the future. He has the pressure of being our top draft pick from 2012 after Appel didn’t sign.

    • BostonsCommon
      March 12, 2015 12:15 pm

      It’s still pretty early, especially for the prep guys… but the 2012 draft is looking like it will be remembered more for guys that didn’t sign (Appel and Buehler)…

      • You kind of have to count Austin Meadows as part of that draft to be fair.

      • I going to go with way too early, considering 8 of 10 position players taken in the top 20 were prep guys, and Buxton and Correa are in the top five of everyone’s lists.

        • BostonsCommon
          March 12, 2015 3:09 pm

          I didn’t mean the draft as a whole… Just from the Pirates prospective.

        • Pretty sure he was talking about the Bucs 2012 draft, not MLB in general. But Mathison, Sampson and Wood (plus Barnes of course) all have a chance to make it, and if you get a decent MLer in a draft, it’s not all bad. Especially when your top 10 pick doesn’t sign. Oh yeah and you get a great OF the next year as compensation

      • I think Adrian Sampson is a pretty good story from that draft.

        As for Appel, if they would have signed him, they wouldn’t have Austin Meadows. And if they would have gone over the bonus pool to sign Appel, they wouldn’t have Meadows, Reese McGuire, Blake Taylor (who they traded for Ike Davis), Cole Tucker, or Mitch Keller.

        • BostonsCommon
          March 12, 2015 6:39 pm

          That’s a little over dramatic for me… They were never going to forfeit a future draft pick to sign a current one.

          And I’m not implying that things wont work out, and Meadows won’t be a star, or anything like that.

          Just that at this point, admittedly early, ’12 looks to be pretty underwhelming. And the two impact talents that they drafted went unsigned.

      • All in all, not signing Appel may have been a much better option considering what they were able to do the following year and by not having to give up future picks. Sampson looks to spend at least some time in the majors, and we get Meadows as a direct result. With Appel, we get a possible SP. As a result of not getting him, it looks like we still got a SP out of that year and a big time OF prospect as a result of not signing. Win.

  • I know that one of the reasons Barnes was drafted highly was his athleticism, and you have to hope that the ltiany of injuries he’s suffered hasn’t dulled those skills.to the point where he’s going to end up as an organizational guy.

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