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October 5, 2011 at 7:38 AM

The Book: Matt Barnes

RHP Matt Barnes
Date: October 1, 2011
Team: Fall Instructional League

Age: 21

Fastball: Barnes worked to establish his fastball in the lower tier of the strike zone during his outing of 2.0 innings. Sitting 93-95 MPH and topping out at 96, his heater showed solid downward movement through the strike zone and jumped on batters out of his delivery. Barnes effectively threw the offering for strikes in both of his innings of work. When in the lower portion of the strike zone, his fastball demonstrated heavy, downward finish and he also showed the ability to spot it well on both sides of the plate. Barnes was only touched for solid contact once with the pitch when he left it up in the zone after failing to finish out of his delivery fully. In this instance his fastball flattened out in the middle of the plate. The opposing batter was able to extend on it and line it hard back up the box into center field. Barnes has the type of fastball where he can use it at any point in the count, either to pound the strike zone early in setting up his secondary offerings or blow it past hitters ahead in the count. His heater looked best suited for working consistently down in the zone and used selectively in the upper tier, where it tended to flatten out the couple of times it hit into that area.

Secondary Offerings: Barnes was fastball dominant in the short outing, but did sprinkle his secondary offerings into both innings. He first broke out a changeup in his first inning, which clocked in at 86-87 MPH. A hard change, it showed some arm-side fade and drop. The pitch has separation from his fastball, but he could also stand to produce more deception when throwing it. There was a slight hitch in his delivery that can be better picked up from more advanced hitters. Barnes’ changeup is a fringe-average-to-average offering, with the potential to improve with continued repetition. After throwing a curveball warming up before both innings, he finally snapped it off in his second inning and showed excellent feel of the pitch. Barnes’ curve clocked at 77 MPH both times he threw it, with impressive depth and bite down through the strike zone. It is presently a plus pitch at his disposal. The tight spin and hard break should make it a very effective out-pitch to either produce swings and misses or knee-bending called strikes.

Take: This outing was Barnes’ first game action of this year’s Fall Instructs and a first glimpse at the package he is bringing to the professional ranks. On the initial view, he looked to have a level of polish that should help him transition pretty quickly into full-season baseball in 2012. Barnes also effectively threw downhill, which really enhanced his fastball. His ability to consistently finish his delivery jumped out during the outing. Constantly keeping his hand above the baseball and his arm in slot, he pounded the lower portion of the strike zone with his heater. Barnes showed solid control of his body, repeatable mechanics, and kept his head on target as well. In a controlled outing there isn’t the chance to see how he holds his mechanics deeper into the game, but his frame looks built to handle the rigors of a starting pitcher.

Barnes will need to refine his changeup as he progresses in his early career. His fastball and curveball should serve him well while the offering comes up to speed though. I see him having the potential to move with less resistance through the low minors. His curve looked like a legit plus pitch and one that can over-match the younger hitters. Compounded with his hard fastball and ability to command it in the lower tier of the strike zone, Barnes should see strong initial results. He will be touched up from time to time though if he is having trouble getting his fastball down due to over-throwing. Barnes can get himself off center and hold onto the ball too long. While his change needs work, he will still have hitters out front when they are gearing up for his fastball given the difference in velocity. From what I saw from Barnes’ overall stuff, he has the potential to round into a second or third starter at the major league level down the line. There will be some adjustments to the five-man pitching rotation as he gets going and a need to build stamina to hold his mechanics deep into outings, but he looked like an arm that can ramp up quickly, with a feel for what he wants to do on the mound.