Many players hit a speed bump when moving up a level during the season, but that was not the case for 22-year-old righthander Mason Barnett.
Drafted in the third round in 2022 out of Auburn, Barnett opened this season with High-A Quad Cities. He posted a 3.18 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with 94 strikeouts in 82 innings to earn an early August promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Barnett seemed to find a new gear at the new level by striking out more batters while walking fewer.
In 23 starts he recorded a 3.30 ERA with 137 strikeouts and 50 walks in 114.2 innings. He allowed just five home runs.
“When he was still in Quad Cities, he was just starting to hit his stride,” Royals senior director of pitching performance Paul Gibson said. “You could see things starting to fall in place for him . . . It was more or less just him growing.”
Gibson also credits Barnett’s desire to compete as his best attribute, as well as the ability to use all four pitches in good counts.
“You command the zone and take ownership of the plate,” Barnett said, “you’ll have success.”
Another factor that prepared Barnett for Double-A was pitching collegiately in the rugged Southeastern Conference. He pointed out that many SEC hitters have advanced plate approaches.
Barnett still has work to do to reach his ceiling as a big league No. 3 starter. Gibson pointed out that he needs to get more consistent with the shape and velocity separation between his curveball and slider. He also needs to continue to limit walks.
Barnett’s work ethic has been a critical success factor, according to Royals farm director/field coordinator Mitch Maier.
“The seamless transition (from High-A to Double-A) to perform very well says a lot about Mason,” Maier said.
“The work he’s put in, not only prior to us selecting him, but in the offseason in preparation for this first long season of professional baseball . . . it just really shows who Mason is.”