College World Series Elimination Game vs. Arkansas
RHP Mason Barnett is an interesting guy. He didn’t have the greatest college season pitching in the SEC but he does seem to throw four pitches for strikes. In this game against Arkansas, he was the victim of some bad luck against a really good hitting team.
Barnett threw his fastball from 94 to 97 in this game. His last pitch, his 77th of the game, registered at 96. Of course, that was a 3-2 pitch to Robert Moore who fought it off landing it just fair in the left field corner and knocking Barnett out of the game. Barnett’s fastball is a pitch that Auburn was really trying to locate in the top third of the strike zone. Barnett has good fastball spin which gives him a little more carry on his fastball. The ESPN analysis was that he has three more inches of carry on the fastball which means the ball doesn’t give into gravity as quickly, therefore it stays higher longer and seems to have a little jump at the end. The Razorback plan in this game was obviously to hunt fastballs and lay off the other stuff. They did that very well.
Barnett can combat a team hunting his fastball by throwing his other three pitches for strikes. In this game, he didn’t do that enough. It also seemed like the Auburn pitch calling abandoned his slider and change up later in the game.
Barnett throws a true 12-6 curve with a lot of break. This pitch starts at the top of the zone, starts to break early, and finishes at the bottom of the zone or lower. He can throw this for a strike or bury it, but didn’t seem to have great control of it as the game wore on in this game. The curve was between 75 and 80 in this game.
Barnett also throws a slider. This pitch is much harder than the curve working from 84 to 88 in this game. The pitch moves to the glove side away from right-handed hitters. Barnett used this pitch for strikes and to try to put hitters away. The slider pairs with his change up giving him three distinct velocity groupings he pitches with.
The change up was better than I was expecting. He threw five to fellow Royals draft pick Cayden Wallace in the first inning before striking him out with 96 inside. The change does have some arm side run and some sink. Like most guys, when Barnett does have an issue with the change it gets flat and runs up in the zone. However, the pitch is usable and showed promise but Auburn didn’t use it very much other than to Wallace. The change was 83 to 87.
Barnett seemed to have some trouble putting guys away in this game. He got the first two strikes on guys fairly quickly, but then nibbled away with the off speed pitches out of the zone. This might be Auburn’s plan for him, but he needs to do a better job throwing all four pitches for strikes while ahead in count to get rid of hitters. Doing that will also keep his pitch count down. Looking at his season stats, Barnett never went deeper than one out in the sixth inning in any of his starts. Many older coaches have told me that a team just wants to know you can consistently give them five good innings in every start. Barnett only did that in 5 of 14 starts this spring for Auburn.
I guess the ultimate question for Barnett is can he be a starter in professional baseball? The answer is yes *IF* he becomes more efficient throwing fewer pitches per hitter and if he throws more strikes in his starts. He has the four pitch mix with three distinct velo changes between his fastball, change/slider, and curve. Guys that show those traits usually have a chance to make it as a starter.
If Barnett and the Royals end up abandoning the starting plan, he’ll probably need to pick either his curve or slider and scrap the other. I don’t know what the future holds for Barnett but he has to make some improvements in order to stay a starter. Once Barnett signs, his development is totally up to him and the Royals development team.