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The Red Report 2019 - Tucker Barnhart

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After a somewhat tense offseason, can Tucker get back to his 2017 ways?

Cincinnati Reds Photo Day Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Fast Facts

  • Catcher
  • 28 years old
  • Native of Brownsburg, Indiana; played high school baseball with former Red Drew Storen and former Cardinal Lance Lynn as the only three players to come out of Brownsburg High School and make the Major Leagues, coincidentally all at the same time.
  • Was on the Brownsburg High School tennis team with Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward.
  • In 2017 NL GG winner at catcher.
  • Majestic beard

Organizational History

  • Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds out of Brownsburg High School in the 10th round of the 2009 amateur draft.
  • Made MLB debut on April 3, 2014.
  • Signed 4 yr/$16 million contract prior to the 2018 season (18-21), fifth year team option for $7.5 million

Career Stats

Standard Batting
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2014 23 CIN NL 21 60 54 3 10 0 0 1 1 0 0 4 10 .185 .241 .241 .482 36 13 0 0 2 0 1 2
2015 24 CIN NL 81 274 242 23 61 9 0 3 18 0 1 25 45 .252 .324 .326 .650 79 79 10 2 2 3 5 2/9
2016 25 CIN NL 115 420 377 34 97 23 1 7 51 1 0 36 72 .257 .323 .379 .702 86 143 12 2 2 3 8 2
2017 26 CIN NL 121 423 370 26 100 24 2 7 44 4 0 42 68 .270 .347 .403 .750 95 149 12 3 5 3 11 *2 GG
2018 27 CIN NL 138 522 460 50 114 21 3 10 46 0 4 54 96 .248 .328 .372 .699 87 171 13 2 3 3 2 *23
5 Yrs 476 1699 1503 136 382 77 6 28 160 5 5 161 291 .254 .328 .369 .697 86 555 47 9 14 12 27
162 Game Avg. 162 578 512 46 130 26 2 10 54 2 2 55 99 .254 .328 .369 .697 86 189 16 3 5 4 9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/4/2019.

Scouting Report


Source: FanGraphs
Brooks Baseball

Ken Gif-y Jr.

Projections

Outlook

After a breakout 3.4 bWAR season in 2017, it sure looked like the Reds had their catcher for the foreseeable future in Tucker Barnhart. He won the 2017 National League Gold Glove award at the position at season’s end and, prior to the 2018 season, the Reds rewarded him with a guaranteed contract worth four years and 16 million dollars with a fifth year team option valued at seven and a half million dollars.

In the world of Big Baseball Salaries, it’s not a lot, but a quick glance around the league the past two offseasons shows a lot of uncertain contract situations for the not-a-stars, and especially less certainty for guys on the fringes. The Reds banking on what is hopefully the new normal from Barnhart was savvy, but it’s not difficult to see why Tucker would embrace the guaranteed security.

With that in mind, it’s been a strange offseason for the Reds nearly-everyday backstop. Just one season removed from the Reds seemingly committing to him for the future, Tucker’s found himself rumored in nearly every offseason deal that moves for the Reds.

For a minute, Tucker’s name was involved in a dead-’til-it-wasn’t trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers; before the clubs settled on the players that actually moved (Homer Bailey, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, Matt Kemp, and others), Barnhart’s was a name that was rumored to be discussed. From there, his name was consistently brought up in the Reds pursuit of former Marlins catcher JT Realmuto. Even he wasn’t directly involved with the deal itself, it seemed all but certain the team would put Barnhart even more firmly on the block should they acquire the All Star.

The Marins, of course, eventually went with the Phillies package headlined by Sixto Sanchez and Jorge Alfaro and, for now, Barnhart’s status with the team seems safe.

But damn, what an awkward turn of events. Not to mention Tucker is, I think, somewhat of a fan favorite, having grown up just up the road in Indianapolis a Reds fan. He also has the reputation as guy who has “worked/earned” his entire way. A 10th round pick in 2009, Barnhart was an after-thought behind names like Yasmani Grandal and Devin Mesoraco in the minors. The former wasn’t around long to compete with in the long term, but it was only five short years later he was splitting time with the latter. By 2018, he was good enough (and Mesoraco hurt enough) to part ways with Devin altogether.

I’m not exactly a draft history expert, but I’d think the success rate for 10th rounders is pretty low, and 10th rounders out of high school at that position lower yet. Yet, here we are.

Still, it doesn’t take a lot of reading between the lines to figure out, when given the opportunity to upgrade their lineup, Tucker’s spot was one that the Reds figured could use upgrading.

2018 was a step backward for Tucker. After putting up a .750 OPS (.347 OBP) season in 2017, he slashed only .248/.328/.372 in 2018, and despite having over 100 more PA, hit only three more HR and actually three fewer doubles. In a lot of ways, he simply regressed back to his pre-2017 offensive profile, with his OPS+ of 87 in 2018 only one point higher than the total he posted in 2016, though the 89 wRC+ in 2018 was only actually one point lower than 2017’s 90. Offensively, everything thing was down a tick or two from his career best 2018, but maybe not significantly so (and probably even less significantly considering only a handful teams in the league get consistently offense from the position, anyway).

From a value standpoint, its Tucker’s defense that backtracked in a big way in 2018. Baseball Reference sported Barnhart a healthy 2.8 dWAR in the Gold Glove 2017 year, while it scored him only 0.9 last season. By Fangraphs’s DEF metric: 14.9 down to 5.5. Despite playing 65 more innings behind the dish last season, Tucker threw out 15 less runners stealing (also gave up more stolen bases, obviously, though one would expect that when playing more and throwing out less).

Diving into the components of statistical metrics (2017 vs 2018): by rSB (stolen base runs saved above average) 7 to -1. By DRS (total defense runs saved above average) 11 to -5. A look at the Inside Edge Fielding probabilities from one year to another tells a story: Barnhart made each type of play less often.

Fangraphs

There is certainly a lot of funky shit that goes on with defensive metrics from year to year, and it’s not certainly meant to be the end all, be all in player performance. I’ll admit that I don’t think Barnhart’s defense looked that much worse in 2018 relative to 2017. That said, these numbers mean something, and whether it’s a long term trend or a bump in the road is worth monitoring.

Though, I doubt Tucker fell off the defensive cliff overnight, considering he’d built nearly his entire career on it, even before the Gold Glove season.

It’s also worth noting that Barnhart played a ton in 2018. Only Willson Contreras, Jonathan Lucroy, Yasmani Grandal, and Yadier Molina played more innings behind the dish than Barnhart in 2018. Perhaps, the remedy may just be a few more strategic days off, as Casali proved himself plenty capable as a backup in 2018 (should he prove himself healthy in 2019).