Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: No. 8

Tucker Barnhart was added to the Reds 40-man roster during the offseason and got a nice surprise when an injury pulled him up to the Reds active roster for opening day. He'll probably be sent back to AAA for more development eventually but he still projects for regular duty as an MLB catcher.

Tucker Barnhart fared much better in his return to Pensacola last season and finished with a .260 AVG/.348 OBP, an increase of .060 AVG/.076 OB over what he did in 2012 after a midseason promotion from Bakersfield. He's been considered the top catching prospect in the Cincinnati system since the promotion and trade of a couple of first-round draft choices and he would normally be preparing for a debut at AAA to start this season. However, that will be postponed by a welcomed diversion, an injury to Devin Mesoraco has pulled him up to the Reds active roster for opening day.

Barnhart is coming off a decent spring training, going 5-18 with a walk and manager Bryan Price would have probably given him more action had he known he'd need him in Cincinnati to start the season. He was added to the 40-man roster during the offseason and probably would have made his debut in 2014 anyway, but a 23 year-old with no AAA experience would normally have not been expected before roster expansion. Now he's a manager's decision away from making an appearance in a major league game.

Barnhart has the reputation of a blue-collar type catcher. Actually his game is similar to the departed Hanigan's: offset low power with good on-base skills while performing well behind the plate. Barnhart is a switch-hitter, but thus far he's hit much better against right-handers. He does a good job handling pitchers and has a quick release which he used to gun down 42% of opposing base-stealers over his minor league career. When he's not throwing out runners his mitt has been charged with only 24 errors in 331 career games for a fielding percentage .992.

Barnhart is a bit undersized for an MLB catcher, standing 5'10"/195#. He came into the Cincinnati organization out of Brownsville (IN) High School from a tenth round selection in 2009. His talent level projected him for an earlier round, but he waited because teams felt he might opt to pursue a college career at Georgia Tech instead of signing. While prepping he was named Indiana's Mr. Baseball, but his offensive output declined during his senior year because of opponents' refusal to pitch to him. That set him on an early road for developing plate discipline. As a result he's walked in over 11% of his professional plate appearances and his base on balls total is more than two-thirds of his number of strikeouts.

He's not a flashy prospect, but he's performed consistently since turning pro with the exception of what was probably a premature promotion two years ago. Even during his second Southern League season he was younger than the pitchers he faced in all but 26 plate appearances. His jump to the Reds to start this season was also earlier than expected and Mesoraco has been placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to March 21. Without the injury Barnhart was a very safe bet to reach the big leagues eventually and he projects as a polished player that can do a lot of little things to help his team win games at the highest level.

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