Tucker Barnhart: Defensive Stalwart
Tucker Barnhart plays catcher for the Cincinnati Reds. You may have known that, you may have not. If your answer is the latter of the two, it’s time to do some homework. This year, Tucker has become one of the better defensive catchers in baseball. It shouldn’t go without mention that he isn’t too shabby with the stick, either.
Stop that Man!
This year, it hasn’t been a very good idea to run on Mr. Barnhart. He has thrown out 45% of his base runners, including Dee Gordon six out of seven times. That’s very, very good, considering Gordon is almost as fast as Billy Hamilton. This makes it very hard for manager Bryan Price to keep Tucker out from behind the plate, in lieu of playing Devin Mesoraco or Stuart Turner. With a fielding percentage of .998, Tucker is making quite the run at a Gold Glove.
He Can Swing it Too
Tucker Barnhart isn’t the best hitter in the world, but he is still decent with the bat. This year, he’s batting .260 with four homers and 22 RBI. His slashline is a respectable .260/.330/.368. He makes solid contact and gets on base often. Because of this, Barnhart is usually the one hanging the signs behind the plate.
Put it in Perspective
Barnhart’s defense will always be better than his offense, but let’s compare him to other catchers in the league. His defensive slashline is .998/8/9.28. Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals owns a .997/5/7.98 line. Those numbers are strikingly similar, but while Salvy was an All-Star, Tucker Barnhart was not. Yadier Molina‘s line is 1.000/0/18.0, which Tucker is not too far from. This is one person who Tucker will have to beat out to win that coveted Gold Glove. He would be the first Reds catcher since Johnny Bench to win it.
The Battle Within
Over the years, the Reds have searched far and wide for reliable catchers. Jason LaRue was decent. He gave way to Javier Valentin, and then Ramon Hernandez. Throw in David Ross, and they’ve had a few really good catchers. Arguably the best catcher they’ve had was Ryan Hanigan, who they traded away. That led to Mesoraco, who seems to be hurt more often than not. In addition, he’s already had two surgeries on each knee, a surgery on his hips, and a shoulder surgery. Cue Tucker Barnhart, a blessing upon the Cincinnati Reds. He has stayed relatively healthy and has been dependable at his position. Tucker is also under team control until 2019, giving the Reds two more years of the dependable catcher. It would be smart for the Reds to lean more on Barnhart than Mesoraco.
The best bet for the Reds would be to trade Mesoraco or Turner for minor league arms, and keep Barnhart behind the plate most of the time. Another route could be moving Mesoraco to a different position, but given the Reds vast defensive depth, that probably won’t happen. It would make sense for the Reds to keep Barnhart instead of Mesoraco, because of obvious talent and health reasons. The easiest way for that to happen would be to trade Devin off for assets and give the job to Barnhart outright. Whatever the deal may be, the Reds have a bona fide defensive stalwart on their hands in Tucker Barnhart.