Griffin Murphy was the first reliever to make the top 30, as the lefty ranked 28th on our top 30 countdown. Coming in at #26 is his counterpart from the right side, and the reigning Florida State League saves leader.
Barnes served as the closer for the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2012 (Image credit: Vince Caffiero and MiLB.com)
Name: Danny Barnes
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
Date of Birth: 10/21/1989 (23)
Acquired: Selected in the 35th round of the 2010 draft (bonus undisclosed)
High School: Manhasset (Manhasset, New York)
College: Princeton University
Height/Weight: 6’1”/195 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Ranked 29th on 2012 Top 30 prospects list
- 2012 Florida State League Post-Season All Star
- 2012 Florida State League Mid-Season All Star
- 2007 Northeast All Region
2012 Statistics and Analysis
1-3, 34 SV, 53.0 IP, 39 H, 11 ER, 4 HR, 18 BB, 65 K
1.87 ERA (2.75 FIP), 1.08 WHIP, 11.04 K/9, 3.06 BB/9, 0.82 GO/AO
Through the first two years of his career, Barnes was a strikeout machine. Between the Gulf Coast League and Lansing in 2010 and 2011, he threw a total of 103.2 innings and punched out 152 batters for a strikeout rate of 13.20 K/9. Something strange happened in the first half of 2012, however. While he maintained his always excellent ERA (2.28), his strikeout rate returned to the realm of mere mortals, with just 28 batters retired by way of the K over 27.2 innings (9.11 K/9). Furthermore, hitters were reaching base at an uncharacteristically high rate (1.45 WHIP). Whether it was a mechanical adjustment or divine intervention I cannot say, but Barnes figured things out in a big way in the second half and began pitching like a man possessed. Over the final 23.2 innings of his season, he allowed just 13 base runners (0.55 WHIP), one run (0.38 ERA), and struck out hitters at an otherworldly rate of 13.31 per nine innings.
As a less relevant but still interesting aside, Barnes’ 34 saves led the Florida State League, with the second place reliever falling 12 shy of his mark. It was the second consecutive season a Dunedin pitcher led the league in that statistic (2011, Wes Etheridge, 32 saves).
Video (via mopupduty.com)
Often times when pitching prospects are immediately thrust into the reliever role it’s because their deliveries don’t project to hold up over a 200 inning workload. That’s not the case with Barnes, as he has sound mechanics and very ease arm action coming from the 3/4 slot. As he strides his front foot lands perpendicular to the mound and he maintains a loose plant leg through the release. The delivery is simple and clean, and he repeats it well.
Pitch Arsenal Breakdown
The reason Barnes has always been and will always be a reliever in professional baseball is because he doesn’t have the arm strength to maintain velocity for long stretches; he’s almost exclusively a one-and-done guy. With a fresh arm, he’ll sit in the 90-92 mph range with his fastball, touching upwards of 94. When asked to go out for a second inning, that velocity steadily dips towards the high 80’s. The fastball has a bit of sink but below average movement overall, which when combined with his height (6-foot-1), leads to fly ball tendencies. He’s done a good job of avoiding the home run thus far (8 HR allowed in 156.2 career innings), but it will be something to monitor.
Barnes has a trio of secondary offerings, headlined by an 81-83 mph slider with above average potential. The slider has tilt and some impressive depth, already acting as a swing-and-miss pitch. He’ll also work in a changeup, particularly against lefties. It’s shown a lot of improvement since his Princeton days, but Barnes is still inconsistent with maintaining deceptive arm speed. When he throws it soft, it has too much tumble and not enough firmness, leading to easy takes low. Barnes will throw a curveball as well, but the pitch is noticeably behind his other three offerings. As a one inning reliever, it’s a vestigial pitch that could and should be worked out of his repertoire as he begins facing the talented hitters of the upper minor leagues. Like every young pitcher, he’s more control than command at this point, but he projects to be above average and average in the two respectively.
The perfect world projection for Danny Barnes would be an elite setup man or mid-tier closer; something in the mold of Toronto’s Casey Janssen.
2013 Outlook, Risk, and ETA
For the second consecutive season, Barnes spent (basically) the entire year at one level, and dominated the opposition. I expect the first part of that trend to be bucked in 2013, as while Barnes should open the year as the closer with Double-A New Hampshire, the Blue Jays will likely have him ascend the ranks as the year progresses. The possibility of a late season debut with Toronto is very real, as while he lacks a true dominant pitch, Barnes has the diverse arsenal and tight control needed to survive in the major leagues. Further working in Barnes’ favor is that after the conclusion of the 2013 season, he’ll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft, forcing Toronto to add him to the 40 man roster or risk losing him to another club – and he’s exactly the type of player that gets snatched up. With that in the back of their mind, the front office may decide to add Barnes late-season and see what they have in the right hander in August or September.