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Updating the Top 100: Tucker Barnhart

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MLB: Game One-Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

In 2017, Tucker Barnhart had a career year. His offensive numbers had steadily increased each year of his short career, to the point where you could foresee a handful more years of a competent bat with solid doubles power and a discerning eye. His defensive numbers popped in a way that probably does injustice to the word “popped”, throwing out an astounding 44% of would-be base stealers and otherwise being excellent with the glove (perhaps with the exception of framing pitches…).

We’ve reviewed this movie before. Barnhart signed a contract that bought out his arbitration years, but it was generally pretty team friendly and we were left to assume that the Reds would make out very well on the transaction. Instead, Barnhart’s batting numbers have seen two consecutive years of decline, and his 2017 calling card of throwing out baserunners has done whatever calling cards do when they are no longer functional. His 2019 caught stealing percentage of 23% is not only a far cry from his 2017 numbers, it’s also now below league average.

So: Barnhart now has five seasons with the Reds where he has appeared in at least 81 games. Four of the five give Barnhart a bWAR somewhere between 0 and 1. And then his 2017 season was calculated as being 3.3 wins above replacement. One year wonders happen, and we should no longer be referencing Barnhart’s peak when thinking about what he looks like in the future. He’s either a really good backup catcher or a mediocre starting catcher. Barring a trade, Barnhart will have two more seasons in Cincinnati, and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t replicate what he’s done in every season thus far, non-2017 division.

In 590 games played since 2014, Barnhart has a batting line of .250/.328/.371 (85 OPS+), with 91 doubles and 200 RBI. He ramps up the all-time list to #179, up from last year’s ranking of #205.