Top 30 Reds Prospects: No. 22

Tucker Barnhart is the top rated catching prospect in the Reds system. The 09 tenth-rounder is another example how Cincinnati adds early round talent with later round selections by offering a bonus over slot and changing their college plans. Barnhart is a low risk/low reward prospect with plate discipline and defensive skills that will likely land him a MLB job someday

After the removal of a couple of first round selections by promotion and trade last year Tucker Barnhart was left the top rated catching prospect remaining in the Reds development system. His game can be considered similar to Ryan Hanigan's. That's good news for Cincinnati fans because they are familiar with how the underrated backstop contributes to the current Reds team. At the plate Barnhart shows high on-base skills without projecting much power. Defensively he's solid and has gunned down 44% of opposing base stealers.

Barnhart debuted in the Gulf Coast Rookie League in 2009 at the age of 18 and came back the next season to hit over .300 at Billings. The last couple of seasons he hit over .270 at Dayton and Bakersfield before running into some challenges against AA pitching after a midseason promotion to Pensacola. That's not reason for great alarm because he was the youngest player on the Blue Wahoos roster.

The first thing that pops out when looking at his stat line is a career AVG/OB% differential of .082'. He'd developed quite a reputation as a high school player en route to eventually being named Indiana's Mr. Baseball. In his junior season he hit over .500 with eleven homers, but those numbers declined the following year because opposing pitchers limited his number of hittable pitches. Barnhart made the most of the situation and developed a plate discipline beyond his years. He's walked in over 10% of his plate appearances which is almost 2/3 the frequency of his strikes outs.

The Reds acquired Barnhart with a tenth round selection in the 2009 draft. He rated higher but there were sign-ability concerns because he'd committed to play at Georgia Tech. At 5'10"/185# his stature is a bit small for the rigors of catching and may one day cause concerns on durability. Then again his mobility likely assists his quick release from behind the plate and thus the high caught stealing rate. He's also a switch-hitter which is normally a plus, but his skills are much further advanced from the left side.

The 22 year-old still has time to work on either improving or abandoning the right-handed batter's box. He'll join the squad for spring training this year but Reds have a couple of veteran catchers at the AAA level and he's looking at a return to Pensacola at the start of the season. Actually at his age they're probably expecting a full year in AA, but like any other prospect the opportunity is there to expedite the schedule with good performance. Barnhart may not have as high a ceiling as other prospects, but his floor is not as low either. It's a bonus to have a high-impact offensive catcher, but defense is usually a higher priority for the position and his skills behind the plate increase the probability that he'll see MLB action one day in some capacity.

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