Profile: Drafted by Milwaukee in the 14th round out of Florida Gulf Coast University in 2011, Barnes opened some eyes with an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League in 2015, tossing 11.2 scoreless innings over eight relief appearances and striking out 17. After showing promise as a reliever in 2011 at Helena, Barnes shuffled between the bullpen and the starting rotation at Low-A Wisconsin in 2012. He moved up to High-A Brevard County the following season, where he went 9-6 with a 3.08 ERA in 21 appearances, 14 of which were starts. He began 2014 back at Brevard, but quickly earned a promotion to Double-A Huntsville after just three games. He saw action in 23 games for the Stars, starting 21, and returned to Double-A in 2015, pitching for Milwaukee’s new affiliate in Biloxi where he went 4-5 with a 3.36 ERA. After his strong showing in the AFL, Barnes was added to the Brewers 40-man roster and opened 2016 at Triple-A Colorado Springs. He made 17 relief appearances for the Sky Sox, going 2-1 with a 1.21 ERA and recorded one save.
Strengths: With a well built and sturdy frame, Barnes has seen an uptick in his velocity in recent seasons and now sits consistently in the mid-90’s having touched 97 mph on occassion. What makes him even tougher on hitters in the latter innings is the late life on his heater that can really sneak up on them. He’s also showed an improved breaking ball as his mid-80’s slider has some bite to it and has become a swing-and-miss pitch for Barnes to compliment his fastball.
Weaknesses: The biggest reason for the Brewers opting to move Barnes from the rotation to the bullpen is a lack of a true third pitch. He throws a changeup but not all that often and doesn’t command it with the same efficiency as his other two offerings. In addition, the fact that Barnes bounced back-and-forth between starting and relieving hasn’t given him a ton of late inning experience, though he has served as one of the Sky Sox go-to guys out of the pen this season.
Future: The Brewers will give Barnes a look in a relief role, filling in for Michael Blazek, who was placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury. With the return of Corey Knebel looming, it could be a short big league stint for Barnes, but he looks to have a major league future as a reliever and whether he stays up or returns to Colorado Springs at some point, he should become a familiar face to fans at Miller Park over the next several seasons.