Cincinnati Reds in Review: C Tucker Barnhart


For an organization with an illustrious history of producing top catcher talent, the next great one may already have shown himself to the Cincinnati Reds in Tucker Barnhart.

He will have to wait his turn, and his future may not even be as a member of the Redlegs, but in his short sample size of 2014, Barnhart got nothing but rave reviews.

Tucker Barnhart – Catcher

I know what you’re going to say—he can’t hit. I’m not going to pretend that Barnhart is a future batting champion, but I will remind you that the catching position is the one spot in baseball that teams can focus on a player’s defensive prowess and throw offensive production to the wind. Hell, the Reds had Ryan Hanigan behind the plate for three years; they’ve done it before.

A 10th round pick in 2009 out of high school, Barnhart has ascended through the minor league system one rung at a time. He didn’t have tremendous success at Triple-A Louisville in 2014, but remember that he was bouncing between the majors and the minors, in addition to sharing playing time with Bats’ legend Corky Miller.

Barnhart only had 60 plate appearances with the Reds in 2014, but his impact was felt far beyond that. While Devin Mesoraco had always been able to mash and had to improve his catching prowess behind the dish, Barnhart has been the exact opposite. A brilliant game-caller, Tucker is tremendous when squatting down behind the plate.

With Brayan Pena slated to hit free agency next winter, Barnhart will more than likely experience more of the same in 2015. Unfortunately for him, Mesoraco is a young buck and not likely to be on the move any time soon. Should a trade opportunity present itself, it’s hard to see how Barnhart would not be a major trade chip another club would want in exchange.

Barnhart’s Stat Line:

.185/.241/.241, 60 PA, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 0.6 dWAR

Top Tucker Barnhart Moment:

I’m going to call a dead heat tie here between Barnhart making his Major League debut, and his first big league home run.

Starting the season on the 25-man roster as Pena’s backup due to Mesoraco’s injury, Barnhart caught the third game of the season for the Reds against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 3. Even though he would go 0-for-4 with a strikeout, the kid who didn’t grow up too far from Cincinnati in Brownsburg, Indiana, had completed his first Major League game as a catcher.

Then there was his best game in his brief rookie stint where he hit his first and only home run of the season. It was on May 1 at home against the Milwaukee Brewers with his parents in attendance that Barnhart got a hold of a ball down the right field line that stayed inside the foul pole and allowed him to take the greatest trot of his life. (Barnhart also happened to get engaged a month ago—that might become his new greatest trot.)

Low-Point of the Season for Tucker Barnhart:

After his lone big league blast, Barnhart would have to wait for that next hit. Prior to that, his most recent hit came on April 5, but he would have to wait all the way until July 8 to collect another.

Although he was living the dream of playing big league baseball, Barnhart was constantly shuttled up and down the totem pole throughout the season. Even though the drive consisted of going from only Cincinnati to Louisville, the learning of two entirely different pitching staffs can be taxing.

As Barnhart will tell you, there are certainly lower lows than playing Major League baseball.

Final Grade: C-

While metrics may exist to attempt to quantify just how valuable a catcher’s pitch-framing can be to a game, there is none to give credence to how well he can call a game. Barnhart is a true technician behind the dish, in complete command of his staff. We saw this in 2014 with everyone from Johnny Cueto to Tony Cingrani.

He may have to wait another season until he is the full-time backup to Mesoraco at the Major League level, but once the opportunity presents itself, don’t expect Barnhart to relinquish it.