The Indians have a ton of back-end rotation candidates waiting in the upper minors in case of injury. The latest name to join that bunch of MLB-ready arms is Scott Barnes.
Barnes is my personal favorite in the current battle for who will win a spot in case of injury over David Huff, Jeanmar Gomez and Zach McAllister. As a 6’4″ southpaw he’s just what the Indians currently lack in their rotation: a big lefty.
Barnes, who came to Cleveland from the San Francisco Giants in the Ryan Garko deal of 2009 could still develop into a solid pitcher but he doesn’t have a ton of upside. He will never be more than a No. 3 starter at best since his fastball is only average (usually sitting in the low 90’s) and his slider isn’t a true out pitch. Barnes’ changeup is his best offering—it is already considered a plus pitch that he is comfortable using at any time.
Barnes has consistently produced at each level he’s ascended to throughout his minor-league career. In 16 outings in Triple-A last year he posted a 3.68 ERA along with solid 9.2 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 rates. All those numbers line up well with his stats from other levels in his three years of professional baseball. His 1.2 HR/9 rate wasn’t ideal, but if he can lower that he could become a third in a decent rotation.
Barnes will begin the 2012 season in Triple-A and will probably at the bottom of the depth chart for the next shot at a rotation spot with the parent club–Kevin Slowey will probably get the last rotation spot out of spring training, and Huff, Gomez and McAllister will probably be the next guys to get spot starts. That’s unfortunate because Barnes is 24 and just about ready to play at the next level. Instead he’ll continue to develop his slider and try to lower his walks in Columbus.
If Barnes were playing for a team that didn’t have the depth Cleveland does he would probably make his MLB debut in 2012. Unfortunately for him, it’s hard to tell when he will get a shot. The starting five looks pretty much set for 2012, and with the exception of Derek Lowe the rotation probably won’t change much in 2013. And he’d still has to beat Gomez, McAllister and Gomez for a job—not to mention Carlos Carrasco will be back from Tommy John surgery in 2013.
In the next year or two, Barnes will probably have to settle for getting the occasional spot start in the big leagues, much like McAllister in 2011. He could definitely be a solid arm in the future, but unless he proves himself as better than his competition he probably won’t get the chance he deserves as long as he’s in Cleveland.