Despite coming off a second Gold Glove-winning campaign in 2020, there’s no doubt Tucker Barnhart heard the footsteps of former first-round draft pick Tyler Stephenson coming for his job. So how did Barnhart respond to the first real challenge he’s faced in six years since taking over as the Cincinnati Reds‘ primary catcher?
For starters, Barnhart has made his living as one of the most skilled defensive catchers of his generation. But, the two-time Gold Gold glove recipient failed to control opponents running game as successfully as in recent years.
The 43 stolen bases allowed by Barnhart this season were the most he’s surrendered since his 2018 campaign. Even though his 28% caught stealing rate was above the league average of 25%, it was down significantly from the 36% ratio last year.
While there’s no denying the success Wade Miley had with Barnhart almost exclusively as his battery mate, the rest of the Cincinnati staff weren’t as fortunate tossing to the Brownsburg, Indiana native. Reds hurlers compiled a 4.70 ERA with Barnhart behind the dish, which is a three-year high. As a result, his 0.4 dWAR was his lowest mark since the 2015 season.
Tucker Barnhart’s glove isn’t enough to keep him in a Reds’ uniform.
Unfortunately, if Barnhart is not providing Gold Glove-caliber defense, he doesn’t possess the skills as a hitter to make up the difference. The 30-year-old Hoosier has never been a league-average hitter, and he’s posted consecutive campaigns with a 75 OPS+ down significantly from a career-best 95 mark in the 2017 season.
Slashing .247/.317/.368, Barnhart’s seven home runs were just two more than he had during the 2020 campaign despite having 250 more at-bats this year. Even more concerning, his 25.8% K-rate was the highest of his career, while his 7.5% walk ratio was his worst since the 2014 season.
Turning 31 years old in January and accumulating nearly 5,500 innings behind the plate, it’s folly to expect a rebound at this point of his career. Additionally, with the Reds owning a $7.5M team-option for next year on Barnhart, it’s time for Reds Country to usher in the Tyler Stephenson era.
Although his defense slipped this past season, Tucker Barnhart remains an above-average defender, and he’s still the same hitter he’s been throughout his career. As a result, we’ll give Barnhart a C grade for what should be his final season as a Redleg.