The Dodgers optioned catcher Austin Barnes to triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday and plan on recalling rookie catcher Will Smith to take his place Friday before they begin a three-game series against the Washington Nationals, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
Barnes, 29, entered the season as the Dodgers’ de facto starting catcher after the team lost Yasmani Grandal to free agency and did not land J.T. Realmuto via trade. Instead, they acquired Russell Martin and Los Angeles hoped both could rebound from down years.
But it was more of the same for Barnes, who has not been able to rediscover his form from 2017 when he broke out with an .895 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. His .196 batting average this season ranks fifth-lowest among players with at least 230 plate appearances. His .616 OPS is the sixth-worst mark. On Wednesday, he went 0 for 4 with a walk and committed a throwing error that led to the Angels scoring the decisive run in their 3-2 win.
It will be the third stint with the Dodgers for Smith, a 24-year-old prospect who has paired his plus defensive skills with his best offensive campaign as a professional.
The 2016 first-round pick was named a Pacific League All-Star and has compiled a .986 OPS with 20 home runs for Oklahoma City this season. He has hit .269 with three home runs, including a walk-off homer against the Colorado Rockies on June 23, in nine games for Los Angeles this season.
This week, Baseball America slotted him as the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect behind Gavin Lux, Dustin May, and Keibert Ruiz.