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Before Matt Barnes began his epic breakout season last spring right on the heels of Ranaudo’s disappointing debut year, the Red Sox’s future on the mound looked remarkably bleak.
However, the 19th overall pick in the 2011 draft changed all that very quickly, when he fired 26 nearly flawless innings of work in Intermediate-A ball, retiring 81 of the 97 batters he faced and striking out 42.
The 6'4" right-hander did slow down considerably after a promotion to High-A, but he still remains an elite pitching prospect.
Barnes’ success stems primarily from his electric fastball that sits in the middle to upper 90s, with excellent lateral movement and above-average command. He relies on the pitch very heavily.
Barnes also throws a curveball and a changeup. The curve shows tight rotation and good bite through the zone when he hits his spot, but it can be a very hittable pitch when he gets too loose and leaves it up in the zone. It flashes plus potential.
His changeup is a below-average offering presently but has the potential to develop into a reliable third pitch.
Barnes also experimented with a slider in college that he could reincorporate into his arsenal when he reaches the big leagues.
The reason Barnes is not higher on this list is twofold.
Firstly, Barnes’ difficulty in developing his secondary pitches does concern me a bit. While I believe it’s an obstacle he will eventually overcome, development of his curveball and changeup will be crucial to his overall development as a pitcher.
Some time at Double-A in 2013 will be a worthy challenge for him in this department, as he will not be able to rely exclusively on his heater to retire hitters as he has done in the past.
The second reason for his lower ranking is that Barnes has recently taken a back seat among the organization’s pitching prospects, thanks largely to the work of the pitcher who sits third on this list.
While Barnes still has the highest ceiling of any right-hander in the system, the prospect ranked third on this list has a significantly higher floor and is much closer to the big leagues.
Conclusion: Stock down