The Ballad of the Blue Jays’ Danny Barnes

The Blue Jays’ Danny Barnes has been a godsend in the bullpen this year

But who is he? Where did he come from and how is putting out fires for the Blue Jays so effectively?

Danny Barnes was about as un-hyped as they come. He went undrafted out of high school and was unremarkable in his freshman year at Princeton. As a sophomore, he saw a surge in his velocity after rehabbing an injury but still no interest from Major League teams. After his junior year (with a pedestrian 5.14 ERA) he caught the eye of the Toronto Blue Jays who took a flier on him in the 35th round of the 2010 MLB draft.

The Blue Jays quickly identified Barnes’ suitability as a reliever rather than as a starter. On his first minor league assignment in the Gulf Coast League, he was immediately converted to the bullpen—and it paid dividends. He posted a 2.15 ERA between two levels in 2010.

Realizing that a career in professional baseball was far from a guarantee, he completed his Ivy league studies in the offseason and graduated with a degree in Economics.

In 2011, Barnes began climbing Jays’ prospect lists. He struck out 99 in 66 innings of work with a 2.32 ERA in Lansing. The next year he conquered high A ball, leading the Florida State League in saves. But in 2013, Barnes hit a big stumbling block. He lost nearly the entire season to a rotator cuff injury.

He struggled to recapture his sterling form upon his return to Dunedin in 2014 but his strikeout totals were enough to earn him a promotion to New Hampshire in 2015. He racked up 74 strikeouts in 60.2 innings with a 2.97 ERA for the Fisher Cats.

2016 was the year Barnes put himself on the map. Between AA and AAA Barnes posted a sub-1.00 ERA—he allowed only 5 earned runs in 61.1 innings. With Buffalo he was nearly untouchable. He earned one solitary run and gave up just eight walks/hits while striking out 37 in 25.2 IP.

With that kind of season, the Jays simply had to give him a shot in the bigs. Barnes proved his major league potential over two solid stints totalling 13.2 innings.

With his impressive looking minor league numbers, it’s a wonder he didn’t get the call until he was 26. If not for his 2013 lost to injury, we likely would have seen him in the majors a few years earlier.

He was a victim of the options game coming into 2017 and began the season in Buffalo, but soon injuries and poor performances opened up another opportunity for Barnes. He’s been a linchpin in the bullpen ever since.

Thus far in 2017, he’s put up a 2.16 ERA (lowest on the team), 3.23 FIP and 10.6 K/9. Danny’s 1.2 bWAR is equal to Roberto Osuna‘s mark at this point.

It’s been a long, arduous road for Barnes to get where his is now. The once overlooked converted starter, has surpassed nearly everyone’s expectations (perhaps including his own). Now at the highest level there is, Barnes continues to improve and impress.

No longer an intriguing organizational guy. No longer on the taxi squad. Barnes is an integral member of a major league bullpen. With his smarts, humility and work ethic, he seems primed to stay for a long time.

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