Milwaukee Milkmen signed 1B/DH-L Keon Barnum to an unknown contract
When the Milkmen traded David Washington for a nowhere near equitable return I had doubts as to what the organization was doing in regards to their lineup. Couple this with the loss of Adam Brett Walker II to the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Central League and there were holes forming in the Milkmen’s offense. Turns out that my concerns were unwarranted as the Milkmen pulled off a terrific coup by signing Keon Barnum to a contract. It wasn’t a move I expected, but it’s a move that has the potential to be huge for the Milkmen and Barnum.
The big left-handed bat is no stranger to the American Association ranks. He was the 2019 Player of the Year with the Chicago Dogs as he produced all year long in a tight playoff race. I had the opportunity to see Barnum in person that year and to say that he was impressive would be an understatement. He showed immense power, plate coverage, and patience. There’s not much more you can ask from a hitter and his .311/.395/.635 slash line in 428 plate appearances shows just that. He set an, at the time, AA record of 31 home runs and he had a stout 52 walks to only 91 strikeouts. There is absolutely no reason to doubt that Barnum has proven he has what it takes to handle playing in the AA.
Following that season he had an average performance that winter in Liga Mexicana del Pacífico with Mayos de Navojoa, sat out 2020 thanks to the pandemic, and had a brief, and completely forgettable stint, with Pericos de Puebla of Liga Mexicana de Béisbol in 2021. However, he spent the bulk of 2021 in the Atlantic League with the Lexington Legends. An injury shortened his time there and he was outperformed by a couple of teammates which made it easy to miss that he was really good during his Legends tenure. In 314 plate appearances, he slashed .291/.369/.604 with 24 bombs and an even more impressive 32 walks to 69 strikeouts.
What does all of this mean for the Milkmen? It means they are getting a great player and an immediate AA PotY contender. Barnum can be dropped in the middle of the Milkmen batting order and be expected to produce night in and night out. That’s exactly what he should do and based on his past AA and recent ALPB success there’s little reason to doubt he will produce. The only possible question mark hanging over Barnum is whether or not he is fully recovered from his 2021 knee injury and if he will be able to produce like he usually does post-knee injury. As of now there’s no legitimate reason to believe he won’t, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
I said it at the start of the article, but I’ll say it again, signing Keon Barnum is a terrific move by the Milkmen. They lost a two-time defending AA PotY in Walker but have replaced him with the 2019 AA PotY who just so happens to be coming off of a great 2021 ALPB season. It’s not typical for an offense to suffer the loss of a player the caliber of Walker and be able to replace him with a player who has proven himself to be every bit as great of a hitter. The Milkmen have done just that and in doing so have given the rest of the AA good reason to fear their offensive firepower headed into the 2022 season.
Lead photo courtesy of Matt Zuro – Chicago Dogs