The latest entry on our top 50 prospects list is the first relief pitcher, one that has a knack for racking up the strikeouts…
No. 37: Daniel J. Barnes
Relief pitcher / 22 years old / 6′1″ 195 lbs
Born: October 21, 1989 in Manhasset, New York
Bats: Left Throws: Right
High School: Manhasset H.S.
College: Princeton University
Drafted By: The Toronto Blue Jays in the 35th round (1056th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft
Signed: June 15, 2010
Pre-2011 Rank: 41
- Posted an 8-1 record with a 0.80 ERA and 103 Ks in 58 innings as a senior in high school.
- Economics major at Princeton
- Works on his degree during the off-season, set to finish this winter
- Moved to the bullpen during his freshman year but soon returned to starting again despite enjoying success as a reliever.
- Only pitched in three games in 2009 due to injury, missing out on a full year of progression as a result.
- The injury led to a slow start in 2010 and a few bad outings.
- Favorite pitcher is Roger Clemens
- Played with Princeton teammate Jack Murphy this past season in Lansing
Lansing Lugnuts team ranking (min. 5 appearances):
- 1st in games finished (25), K/9 (13.5),
- T-1st in appearances (44)
- 2nd in saves (13), strikeouts (99), H/9 (6.0) and WHIP (0.97)
- 4th in ERA (2.32)
- T-6th in wins (5)
- T-8th in innings pitched (66.0)
Extra Information and previous experience:
Few relievers in the entire Blue Jays organization opened as many eyes as right-hander Danny Barnes did this past season.
After recording an uncanny 7.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27 rookie ball innings in 2010, Barnes skipped a level and closed out the season with Class-A Lansing where he struggled, giving up seven earned runs on 17 hits in 10 2/3 innings along with eight walks.
Last year with the Lugnuts, however, things were quite different.
After storming out of the gate to fan 17 batters in nine April innings, Barnes never looked back and continued his dominance throughout the rest of the season. In a career-high 66 innings–almost double the 37 2/3 he pitched in 2010–the New York native finished the year with a 2.32 ERA/1.79 FIP and struck out 99 batters, good for a 13.5 K/9. To put that into perspective, Barnes’ 99 strikeouts ranked second on the entire Lugnuts roster behind only starter Sean Nolin, who pitched 42 more innings.
While he once again displayed his ability to dominate right-handers, what was most impressive about Barnes’ breakout 2011 season was how he shut down left-handed hitters. After struggling against them in a small sample size one year ago, he managed a 1.88 ERA in 28 2/3 innings against them in 2011 with 47 strikeouts, nine walks and a .150 average.
The key to Barnes’ success last season, though, was his ability to locate his fastball, something that he discovered while pitching in the Gulf Coast League in 2010. Unafraid to throw strikes, he kept his 92-94 mph four-seamer in the zone more often than not, and the result was a pitch that opposing hitters just couldn’t seem to hit.
Having relied primarily on his fastball until now, Barnes will need to really develop his off-speed pitches going forward. A starter with Princeton, he featured a lackluster curveball and chanegup prior to signing with the Jays. Since then, he has worked hard on his low-80s changeup, turning it into a somewhat effective offering, especially against left-handed hitters. While it’s a pitch that he needs to be more consistent with overall, he feels comfortable throwing it in any count.
Though his high-70s curveball is still mediocre at best, Barnes’ slider could really be the difference-maker for him. Starting out as more of a slurve, he tinkered with it as the season wore on to get it to bite like a pure slider, and his development of the pitch will certainly be something to keep an eye on next season as he faces tougher competition. There has also been rumblings that he was working on a cutter with Lugnuts pitching coach Vince Horsman this past season as well.
Expected 2012 team: Dunedin Blue Jays (High-A)
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: MLB closer
A 35th-round pick by the Jays in 2010, Barnes showed in 2011 that his late-season struggles with Lansing in 2010 were merely a result of fatigue, after having thrown over 70 combined innings in college and the Gulf Coast League.
Now, he enters the 2012 season with the potential to be the best relief pitching prospect in the Blue Jays organization, but he’ll need to stay healthy and further develop both his slider and changeup in order to make that happen. As someone who is acclaimed for his drive and strong work ethic, though, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem for Barnes.