Tucker Barnhart was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 10th round of the 2009 MLB draft out of Brownsburg High School in Brownsburg, Indiana, about 130 miles north of Louisville. The 2017 Gold Glove Award winner solidified himself as one of the game's best catchers this past season.
The switch-hitting catcher made his organizational debut the same year he was drafted for the Gulf Coast League Reds at the age of 18, advancing levels during each of his seasons in the minor leagues. Barnhart actually reached the big leagues before ever playing for Triple-A Louisville, starting the 2014 season as Cincinnati's backup catcher after Devin Mesoraco began the season on the disabled list.
Barnhart made his major league debut on April 3, 2014 against the St. Louis Cardinals, catching Homer Bailey in the Reds' third game of the season. He was optioned to Triple-A Louisville after appearing in three games for the Reds, making his Bats debut on April 8. In 78 games for Louisville that season, Barnhart batted .246 with nine doubles, three triples, one home run and 29 RBI. He also threw out 35 percent of would-be base stealers, ranking fourth in the International League.
Barnhart opened the 2015 season with Louisville, but appeared in just five games for the Bats, hitting .313 (5-for-16) before rejoining the Reds on April 19, spending the rest of the season with Cincinnati as the team's second catcher behind Brayan Peña.
In 2016, Barnhart became the Reds' primary catcher. In 115 games, he batted .257 with 23 doubles, seven home runs and 51 RBI, but it was his defense that grabbed the attention of the National League. That season, Barnhart threw out 34 would-be base stealers, leading the league.
Barnhart built on his solid, under-the-radar 2016 campaign and made sure he would never be overlooked again, as he became one of the best catchers in Major League Baseball. In 2017, Barnhart set career highs with a .270 average, 100 hits, 24 doubles, two triples, tied a career high with seven homers, and a .750 OPS.
Baseball-Reference valued Barnhart's 2017 season at 3.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), with 2.8 defensive WAR (dWAR). His 2.8 dWAR was the best among all players in the NL, becoming the first Reds player to lead the league in dWAR since fellow catcher Johnny Bench (2.4) in 1972. For the second season in a row, he also led the NL in throwing out runners attempting to steal bases, this time nabbing 32 runners.
His stellar defense earned him the 2017 Rawlings Gold Glove Award at catcher, becoming just the third catcher in Reds history to win the award, joining two-time winner Johnny Edwards (1963-64) and 10-time winner Johnny Bench (1968-77).
Barnhart heads into this season as one of the elite defensive catchers in the game, and if this past season is any indication, one of the most well-rounded catchers in the game as well. The 27-year-old will look to build upon his breakout, Gold Glove season as the Reds begin the 2018 campaign.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.