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SoxProspects News

November 8, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Top 40 Season in Review: Matt Barnes

#2 Matt Barnes, RHP
2012 Teams: Greenville Drive/Salem Red Sox 
2012 Stats: 7-5, 2.86 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 29 BB, 133 K, 119 2/3 IP


Pre-2012: After posting an 8-3 record with a 3.92 ERA in his sophomore season at UConn, nobody could have predicted the meteoric rise Barnes would have over the next year. His stock took off in the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2010, where he posted a 1.42 ERA in 20 2/3 innings for the Wareham Gatemen. Barnes’ best start on the Cape came in front of a slew of Red Sox personnel, who were there to scout recent draft pick Anthony Ranaudo. While Ranaudo earned the win, Barnes was the more impressive pitcher, striking out 14 over seven innings, allowing only one run and flashing three plus pitches. Barnes left the Cape to join the USA Collegiate Team later in the summer, and his dominance continued. He allowed three runs and struck out 26 over 19 innings. In three months, he went from intriguing arm to a potential top ten pick.

He picked up right where he left off when he returned to UConn for his junior season, throwing 116 2/3 innings with a 1.62 ERA on his way to winning Big East Pitcher of the Year. Barnes consistently hit the upper 90s with his fastball, even in the cold conditions in Storrs. He also showed he could hold his velocity deep into games, hitting 97 on the final pitch of a complete game shutout against the University of Pittsburgh in late-March. Barnes fell to the 19th pick in the extremely strong 2011 Draft, where the Red Sox scooped him up with the pick they received when Victor Martinez signed with the Tigers. Barnes signed on the August 15 deadline and did not make appearance in 2011, setting the stage for a highly anticipated debut in 2012.

2012 Season in Review: Barnes was placed in Low A Greenville to start the year, a very conservative placement for an accomplished college pitcher. The Red Sox wanted to get Barnes used to the five-man rotation before they challenged him against more advanced hitters. Barnes responded by being arguably the most dominant pitcher in the minor leagues for the first month of the season, with Dylan Bundy of the Orioles being the only pitcher who was close. In five starts in Greenville, Barnes gave up one run in 26 2/3 innings, while allowing only 16 baserunners and striking out 42. Barnes won an unprecedented five straight SoxProspects.com Pitcher of the Week awards to begin the season, and was promoted to High A Salem on April 29.

The Carolina League did not offer much of a challenge to Barnes initially either, as he coasted to a 1.93 ERA in 28 innings in May, but the league adjusted, as his ERA rose to 3.57 in June, 4.98 in July, and eventually settled at 4.58 in August. It is clear Barnes wore down as the year went on, which is not surprising considering it was his first full season as a professional, but he also showed the ability to dominate the competition, something that is crucial if he wants to reach his ceiling as a number two or three starter at the major league level. 

2013 Outlook: Barnes will get his first taste of the upper-minors in 2013, as he is likely to head north to start the season with the Portland Sea Dogs. Double-A hitters will offer a good test for Barnes, as he will have to improve the consistency of his off-speed pitches and his fastball command to produce similar results to what he accomplished in 2012. If all goes well, Barnes could even earn a promotion to Pawtucket during the year, which would put him in line for a 2014 debut in the major leagues. With the additions of Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, as well as fellow 2011 draft pick Henry Owens' breakout potential, Barnes will have some competition for top pitcher in the system, but he has the stuff and the easy delivery to remain at the top of the list for as long as he is in the minor leagues. Barnes has the potential to be an impact talent on the mound, something the Red Sox have been lacking for the past few years, which is why his development is so critical to the team's long-term plans.

Photo Credit: Matt Barnes by Kelly O'Connor