INDIANAPOLIS – Barrett Barnes was added to the Indianapolis roster today, and making his Triple-A debut, batting fifth and playing left field. The Pirates drafted Barnes in 2012 as a first round compensation pick, which they received for losing Ryan Doumit to free agency. Barnes was a toolsy player with power potential out of college, which normally leads to a faster track to the upper levels of the minors. But the road to Indianapolis for Barnes has been a long and often painful journey.
Barnes is making his season debut today, in mid-May, due to a hamstring injury that he suffered during Spring Training. The injury put him out for about two months when you consider Spring Training games. And unfortunately, that has been the theme of his career so far.
In 2012, after being drafted and signing, he suffered a stress fracture in his leg. The injury occurred at the end of July and put him out for the rest of the season, which was about a little over a month of time missed.
In 2013 he started the year with back stiffness in Spring Training, which delayed his debut until the end of April. He then had a right hamstring injury in May, and strained the same hamstring in mid-July, putting him out for the year.
The hamstring issue returned in 2014, occurring in his fourth game of the year. He returned in mid-July, and was pushed up to Bradenton, but went down with a season-ending oblique injury after six games.
The 2015 season was relatively healthy, outside of hamstring tightness at the start of the season, which caused him to miss the first two weeks of the season. That was more of a precaution, due to his history.
His only injury in 2016 was a concussion at the start of the year, which put him out for about two weeks, and only caused him to miss a few games during the season.
And then we get to the latest injury, another hamstring strain, which was his ninth trip to the disabled list in his six pro years, and fifth one for his hamstring. He’s feeling good after the latest rehab, which didn’t take as long as the other ones.
“This was the shortest one, besides the one in Bradenton,” Barnes said of the rehab. “It was a normal procedure, we went through the normal rehab, and I got the amount of at-bats I wanted and got out of there.”
If there’s one silver lining here, it’s that the injuries are becoming less frequent and costing less time for Barnes the last few years. He only missed a little over two weeks of regular season action in 2015 and 2016, and the concussion wasn’t really an injury-prone situation. But the latest hamstring issue makes you wonder if Barnes can ever get beyond these issues.
“We’ve been trying to avoid it since the first one,” Barnes said on preventative measures. “Sometimes things happen, sometimes that’s just what it is. You’ve got to just put it behind you and keep moving forward.”
Barnes still has the tools to be a future major league player. He has lost some speed and some of his defensive skills, and never had a strong arm, which forces him to a corner outfield spot, rather than being the speedy center fielder he was when drafted. He’s been healthy the last two years, giving him a chance to develop his bat and start to show some of the power that made him a first round pick. The power was highlighted by a .170 ISO last year in Altoona, and that number jumped to .224 from July to the end of the season. Now, Barnes finds himself in Triple-A, but still wanting more.
‘It’s a blessing, but I’m not where I want to be yet,” Barnes said. “I know I’ve got to go through this level and I’ve got to learn things here, and polish my game. But ultimately I’m trying to make an appearance in Pittsburgh and turn my season around a little bit.”
I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Barnes to be healthy from this point forward. I think the best you hope for is that his injuries and time missed in the future is limited, which could allow him to continue his development in Triple-A, and have a shot at reaching the big leagues and seeing how far his bat can take him.