November 6, 2014 at 7:30 AM
Past entries in this year's Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.
#7: Matt Barnes, SP
2014 Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston Red Sox
Final Stats: 127 2/3 IP, 8-9, 3.95 ERA, 119 H, 60 R/56 ER, 46 BB, 103 K, 1.29 WHIP (minors)
9 IP, 0-0, 4.00 ERA, 11 H, 4 R/4 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 1.44 WHIP (majors)
Season in Review: The Red Sox's top pick in the 2011 draft, Barnes entered 2014 with high expectations. He was coming off a 2013 campaign that saw him start slow but make adjustments and finish strong, earning a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket for his final start of the year. Invited to major league spring training but ticketed for a return to the PawSox, Barnes was shut down early in spring training due to shoulder soreness, setting his season debut back until April 25, when he threw five solid innings. However, consistency was lacking for Barnes in the first half, perhaps due to the disruption in his preparation for the season. He completed six innings in only six of his first 15 starts, and he went into the break with a 5.06 ERA and 57 strikeouts against 31 walks in 74 2/3 innings.
When the calendar flipped to the second half, Barnes' season turned the page as well. He came out of the break with a strong outing in Syracuse, allowing two runs on three hits in 6 2/3 innings. Two starts later, he turned in the strongest outing of his professional career, firing seven no-hit innings while striking out 10 batters. In eight second-half starts, the 6-foot-4 righty was a totally different pitcher. In 53 innings, he posted a 2.38 ERA and held International League batters to a .167 batting average, striking out 46 and walking only 15. In his lone playoff start for Pawtucket, he allowed just three hits over seven shutout innings while striking out six in game two of the International League semifinal.
Following his breakthrough second-half performance, the Red Sox purchased Barnes' contract on September 8 and recalled him to work out of the major league bullpen. He made his major league debut the following day, coming in with the Red Sox trailing Baltimore, 4-1. Barnes made a strong first impression, throwing three shutout innings, giving up three hits and striking out two without issuing a walk. He made four more relief appearances in September, finishing his first major league stint with four earned runs allowed on 11 hits in nine innings. - James Dunne
Scouting Report and 2015 Outlook: Listed at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Barnes has an athletic body with a durable pitcher's frame. His best weapon is the fastball that ranges between 89-96 mph. The pitch jumps out of his hand and gets on hitters quick. Late in the season, Barnes began his outings working comfortably in the 89-93 range, then would dial up to 95-96 late in counts or when he got into trouble. The ability to add/subtract messed with hitters' timing and essentially let the fastball play as two different pitches. The fastball grades above-average, and he projects to have future average command/control of the pitch. His best secondary pitch is the curveball in the 78-83 mph range with late, hard snap. The pitch flashes above-average, and he controls the pitch well, usually burying it down, out of the zone. The issue with the pitch is his inconsistency and his inability to command it for strikes. His third offering is an average-grade changeup at 83-86 mph. The pitch does not project to miss many bats, but he throws it with enough consistency to keep hitters guessing and off-balance. The pitch is also an effective and much-needed tool for Barnes against left-handed hitters.
Overall, Barnes displays a three-pitch mix with two potential plus-grade pitches and an average third offering with future average command/control. Barnes will not turn 25 until June, and still has all three options remaining. He has a ceiling of a solid number three-to-back end starter in the rotation. He will need to improve the consistency of the breaking ball and his ability to command it for strikes to reach his ceiling. Otherwise, Barnes could fill an immediate need in the bullpen, where some scouts see him best-suited anyway. Barnes could compete for a spot in the rotation during Spring Training or possibly make the team out of the bullpen, but the more likely scenario is that he heads back to Pawtucket to continue development as a starter, demonstrate more overall consistency, and position himself for a call-up when the club needs to dip into its depth. - Chaz Fiorino
Additional editorial support provided by Jonathan Singer.
Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor