Nationals Today – Nats To Play Their First Spring Game, But Who Is Starting First Baseman Kevin Barker?

The Nationals will partake in their first Spring Training game tomorrow against the New York Mets. Below is the lineup:

1. Nyjer Morgan, CF

2. Ian Desmond, SS

3. Roger Bernadina, LF

4. Michael Morse, RF

5. Matt Stairs, DH
6. Wilson Ramos, C

7. Kevin Barker, 1B
8. Danny Espinosa, 2B
9. Jerry Hairston, 3B

Chad Gaudin, SP

So, who is Kevin Barker?

Barker, a native Virginian, is a 35-year-old career minor leaguer. A VPI alumni, Barker last got a taste of the majors as a Cincinnati Red in 2009 where he had 32 at bats, but before that the last time he registered at least 100 at bats in the big leagues was way back in 2000 with the Milwaukee Brewers…when he was still a 24-year-old prospect.

Despite posting strong minor league seasons in 1998 (.281/.331/507, 28 HR 110 RBI in AA-AAA) and 1999 (.278/.363/518, 23 HR, 87 RBI in AAA), he was never able to gain significant playing time in Milwaukee. It appears that the Brewers were set on playing Sweet Lou Mark Loretta at first base, and not the young power hitting left-hander.

In total, Barker has hit .264/.355/.469 with 191 home runs and 733 in 13 AAA seasons, a regular Crash Davis. He is one of those unique players who did not make it in the show not because of his ability, but because of he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and never given an opportunity. 

Barker represents exactly the type of treasures that make Spring Training such an amazing place to explore. It’s a unique melting pot filled with those who rule the game of today, those who are hoping to rule the game of tomorrow, and those who have, for whatever reason, been passed over by the game. Barker will almost assuredly not make the Nationals this season, and he is likely for all intensive purposes just playing for a minor league contract, one last chance to keep the dream alive for one more season.