The Dodgers entered the season counting on a bounce-back year from catcher Austin Barnes after losing Yasmani Grandal, missing out on J.T. Realmuto on the trade block, and adding 36-year-old veteran Russell Martin as his partner. They hoped Barnes could rediscover his form from 2017 when he batted .289 with an .895 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Instead, they have gotten the Barnes from last season. Barnes entered Saturday’s game against the Boston Red Sox three for his last 33. Since coming off the injured list June 7, he is nine for 60 (.150) with 16 strikeouts and a .424 OPS.
“I think we just keep trying to focus on the everyday thing,” Barnes said. “Try to get better.”
Barnes went 0 for 3 on Friday. He struck out in the seventh inning with runners on first and second. It was the second and final time the Dodgers put multiple runners on base in their 8-1 loss. He is batting .203 with a .636 OPS in 202 plate appearances. The batting average and OPS both rank 20th among 21 catchers across the majors with at least 200 plate appearances.
Martin entered Friday with a .240 batting average and a .675 OPS in 147 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Will Smith, a 23-year-old catching prospect who excelled in his two stints with the Dodgers this season, slugged two home runs for triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday. Smith is batting .286 with 16 home runs and 1.003 OPS for Oklahoma City. He went seven for 26 (.269) with three home runs in nine games for Los Angeles.
Dodgers officials already believe he was a plus defender before the season — president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman called him a Gold Glove-caliber catcher — but questions remained about his offensive ability. His production this season has seemingly quelled them.
Smith will return to the Dodgers this season — he’ll be a September call-up if he isn’t promoted earlier — and there’s a chance he’ll land on the postseason roster. Until then, the Dodgers will continue relying on Barnes for the bulk of the starts behind the plate, hoping for a turnaround.
“He expects production out of himself,” Roberts said. “And our ballclub [does]. I don’t think we want to concede that eight spot as being a non-productive spot in the lineup.”
Roberts said left-hander reliever Scott Alexander still hasn’t thrown since going on the 10-day injured list with a forearm injury June 11. Roberts added that Alexander has not experienced setbacks. “He’s just taking longer than we had expected.”