The Boston Red Sox organization is awash with young pitchers, many of whom have had the opportunity to showcase their talents at the highest level. Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman have had the opportunity for much of the season. Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo and Heath Hembree have thrown to major league hitting in recent weeks. Henry Owens, just promoted to triple-A Pawtucket, has been lauded by some as the Red Sox’ future ace.
When there’s so many great young players to talk about, it’s easy, if not inevitable, to have a few fly under the radar.
Such a case can be made for 24-year-old right-handed pitcher Matt Barnes. The 19th overall pick of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of UConn, Barnes has pitched the entire 2014 season in Pawtucket, and has been passed over in the conversation of the great arms in the system.
The numbers likely have a good deal to do with it. Baseball is a numbers business, and we tend to look at the hard statistics when evaluating a player. Barnes’ 11-18 record with a 4.24 ERA and 1.427 WHIP over two seasons between Pawtucket and double-A Portland not only doesn’t jump out, but drives some away.
To the naked eye, those numbers are suspect, and there’s no doubt that Barnes has had plenty of ups and downs over the last two seasons. There have been bad starts, bad stretches, and times where he’s battled himself on the mound. But that’s not the worst thing that can happen to a young pitcher.
Encountering struggles, Barnes has learned how to fight his way out of tough situations. He’s had to bounce back, something every pitcher needs to do on countless occasions in a major league career.
What makes Barnes so intriguing is that he’s the one pitcher who can say he truly mastered each level before being moved up, meaning that he faced teams the second time around, took his hits, had his slumps and worked out of it. He spent a full season in double-A before spending a full season in triple-A.
It’s going through the roller coaster ride of the past two seasons for Barnes that has drawn up the narrative of his last five starts. Getting shelled by the Toledo Mud Hens on July 12, allowing six earned runs on nine hits and four walks over 4.2 innings, he’s bounced back nicely in four starts since, allowing as many earned runs over 24.1 innings, striking out 22.
Barnes is a big righty with a 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame. He’s been said to possess the best fastball among all Red Sox prospects. It’s a fastball that should be on display at Fenway Park sometime within the next couple of months, as Barnes will likely get a start or two at the major league level before the 2014 season is over.