Coming off a 2018 season in which Barnes was the set-up man to Craig Kimbrel, the best reliever of this decade, it was expected that he would assume the 2020 Red Sox closer role. However, Red Sox manager Alex Cora wanted to better utilize the hard-throwing righty.
He got the meat of the batting order every night. As it turns out, pitching high-leverage innings every night drains you mentally and physically and his June output reflected that. With an easier workload and less intensive innings, Barnes got hot to the end of the season. He had the best SO/9 in the American League, second in baseball to the Milwaukee Brewer’s Josh Hader
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Barnes is a serious candidate for the 2020 closer role as he has experience, the 2018 postseason specifically, and still possesses an electric fastball and a disgusting curveball to break in the dirt. He walks too many batters, seemingly a common theme of the Boston bullpen, but he proved effective in a high-leverage role this past season.
By the end of May, his ERA was 2.08 and he was still consistently facing the heart of the order. Those numbers clearly show that if his workload is managed correctly, Barnes can be one of the most effective high-leverage pitchers in baseball.
Because of his overall impressive 2019 performance, if paired with the young lefties (Hernandez and Taylor), they can form an elite bridge from the middle innings to the ninth inning. For those reasons, it seems likely that Barnes will not be the closer in 2020, rather an elite high-leverage pitcher.