Barrett was a hitter in search of a position his first two seasons. Originally taken by the Expos as a shortstop in the first round of the June 1995 draft, Barrett was switched to catcher at the tail end of his tenure with the club’s Rookie League team that fall. En route to winning the franchise’s minor-league Player of the Year Award in 1998, Barrett made the second radical re-alignment of his young career when Montreal planted him at third base for the second half of the season at Double-A Harrisburg.
After getting his first taste of major-league action in a brief September callup that year (he was behind the plate when Cardinals’ slugger Mark McGwire clubbed his record-setting 69th and 70th home runs on the final day of the season), Barrett won a spot on the Expos’ roster the next spring. Just what spot he had won, however, remained in doubt. The club couldn’t commit to a fulltime position for their highly-touted prospect, and he wound up splitting time almost equally between third base and catcher.
The constant shuffling didn’t seem to affect the right-handed hitter’s smooth swing. He batted .292 with eight home runs while ranking among NL rookie leaders with 32 doubles, 127 hits, 52 RBIs and 53 runs scored. But the following season would prove more trying. When Barrett struggled with his defense at third base early in 2000, the Expos sent him down to Triple-A Ottawa. He hit his way back to Montreal in mid-June, and hung around long enough for the Expos to finally settle on him as a catcher and subsequently option him back to Ottawa to work full-time behind the plate.
Less than 10 days later, when ill-timed injuries and a trade that sent Chris Widger to Seattle depleted the club’s catching ranks, Barrett was recalled to continue his apprenticeship in the major leagues. After serving as the Expos’ everyday catcher for a month, an inflamed right elbow ended his season in mid-September. The ups-and-downs of the year had clearly taken a toll on his offensive production, as Barrett slipped to .214 with just one home run in 271 at-bats.