View From The Bleachers

July 31, 2012

Is Darwin Barney a piece to build around?

Filed under: Featured,General — guest @ 3:42 pm

by Matt Eurich

The word echoing throughout the organization since the arrival of team president Theo Epstein has been: Rebuild. The Cubs have been an organization in recent years that has relied heavily on the “win now” approach, often times throwing money at players for a short term pay off and then being saddled with large unmovable contracts.

Epstein, along with General Manger Jed Hoyer and Director of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, have made a point in the short time here in Chicago that all of their moves now are to improve the future. Having a solid draft as well as signing Cuban Jorge Soler has immediately helped to improve the system moving forward.

Most do not see the Cubs being true contenders for another couple of seasons, making it likely that most of the players currently seen on the field will not be around when that day comes. The obvious names, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, are here for the long run and the two have provided a nice base of players to build off of. Other guys like pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood are two names the organization hopes can also be major contributors for years to come, but what about second baseman Darwin Barney?

In Barney’s first major league season last year, he finished the year batting .267, good enough for seventh among all major league second baseman. Barney’s average has dipped a bit this season, currently batting .260 but has already doubled his home run total from last year with four and is on pace to eclipse the 43 RBI he finished with last season.

Although Barney’s offensive numbers are not at the top of the charts, he remains as an average to slightly above average hitter. Barney’s biggest contributions come from the defensive side of the game. Barney currently ranks 1st in the majors among second baseman with a .998 fielding percentage, having committed just one error this season and came in to Monday night’s contest against the Pirates with an 87 game errorless streak. Barney also leads all second baseman in defensive wins above replacement (DWAR) with a stellar 3.1 while the next closest second baseman, Robinson Cano, has a 1.4. Despite Barney’s stellar defense so far this season, it is unlikely he will be able to beat the reigning gold glove second baseman in the NL, Brandon Phillips.

Barney came up in the Cubs system as a shortstop but because of the success of Starlin Castro, the Cubs moved Barney to second base. With a lot of talent at the shortstop position in the minor league system for the Cubs, it has been rumored that the Cubs could eventually move Castro to second base to make way for one of their shortstops, but not many are sold on the defensive abilities of the top shortstops in the system. Javier Baez has played great in Single-A Peoria batting .351 with 11 homeruns but many think he will eventually make the move to third base as his range and size might be better suited at the hot corner. Another shortstop playing well has been Junior Lake. Lake is batting .293 with seven homeruns for Double-A Tennessee but has committed 23 errors in 67 games splitting time at both shortstop and third base. Many believe that if Lake cannot cleanup his mistakes he may be better suited to make a move to the outfield, given his great speed and range.

With a lack of depth at the second base position in the minor league system and one of the best field percentages in all of baseball, the Cubs may have found their second baseman of the future. Barney will never be a power hitting second baseman like Robinson Cano but he should be able to raise his batting average a few points and continue to play great defense for a team, that moving forward, will be relying on players that do the little things right, and Barney appears to be their guy.

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  • Cubs204

    Dempster to Rangers!

  • http://www.facebook.com/christopherjamesallen Christopher Allen

    Barney’s fielding has been superb and with his youth we could keep him around a long time.  Sure, it would be nice for him to pick up his batting a bit but his defense will help our soon to be very young pitching staff.

  • Cubs Future

    I’m torn on the Barney dilemma.  He isn’t that productive at the plate, but absolutely outstanding on defense.  Not to mention that he still towards the top at his position offensively. More and more I am leaning towards building around him as not exactly sold on anyone else at the position coming up (some temporary people yes, but not long term like him).  But at least if someone does come along, they still can trade him later on.  Baez should be 3B, but hopefully can improve the defense as that is tough, but then again the new acquire could be huge prospect for 3B as is A+ right now.  Lake probably will be part of the OF which some will take care of itself, but what will it look like.  Jackson, Almora, and Soler is what is talked about.  What about Szczur and if Lake and/or Vitters are moved out there?  Definitely would be a good problem to have and they definitely will not all burst onto the scene at the same time for those spots.  Just glad that I am not the GM and hope to see more good things to come to trade away extra pieces for young needed talent, etc.

  • Chuck

    Batting average?  RBIs?  Fielding percentage?  Is this 1982?

  • RichBeckman

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/barneda01.shtml

    There is no reason not to keep Barney unless one is confident of an upgrade being available.  Sounds like currently there is no such upgrade in sight.

  • Norm Bothwell

    Barney is the new Theriot. He’s fine to have around until he hits arbitration, then it’s probably time to move on.

  • Doc Raker

    Barney is a gold glove 2nd baseman and a very good 8 hole hitter, that is n acceptable 2nd baseman in my book. Plus, he is finding some power this year, will he become another Ryne Sandberg probably not but a fine roll player for sure.

  • Jedi

    Yeah, I’d look to other spots on the diamond to shore up before I started worrying about Barney.  No need to build around him, no need to be anxious to dump him either.

  • http://swantron.com/ jswanson

    How about those 2013 Iowa Cubs?  They’ll be gangbusters…

  • Buddy

    Darwin Barney isn’t even close to a player to build around, but he’s a solid option as a utility player, or a reasonable starter on a really good offensive team that can afford to carry a zero bat because of his plus glove. 

  • mike_thoms

    That’s ridiculous. Assuming he keeps hitting around where he does, and assuming he keeps playing defense the way he does, yes he is. Not every guy in your line-up is going to be a plus .300 hitter with 30 HRs and 90 RBIs. Every team has a starter like Darwin Barney.

  • Buddy

    Huh? Who said he needs to hit 30 homers? I simply said, or tried to say, that good teams usually don’t play automatic outs (a player with no power who doesn’t get on base) every day. However, a very good hitting team can afford to do that, if the automatic out is a very good defensive player, like Lil’ Darwin Barney.

  • Jedi

    Buddy, trading Dempster got us another start from your favorite Cub tonight!  Casey Coleman is on the mound…

  • Buddy

     Gee thanks!

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Get your tickets now.

  • BLPCB

    Barney is a solid player for now, no point in getting rid of him for the sake of getting rid of him. I wonder how that SS we traded to Tampa for Garza is doing. I had always thought him and Castro would be our future up the middle.

  • Buddy

    Do you mean Hak-Je Lee? If so, he’s been decent at AA this year: .343 onbase, .368 slugging. He’s running a lot…37 steals.

  • Kizzfastfists

    Barney gets out more then 20 other starting 2Bs with at least 200 ABs. His defense makes up for his .310 OBP a little, but not enough to call him a long-term fixture at 2B. He will be the Cubs 2B for 2013 and probably 2014 then replaced when the Cubs are ready to be contenders. Barney would be a great utility player at that point because of his ability to handle 2B, SS and 3B defensively. The question is will that be a good investment once he hits arbitration or will one of the players working their way up be a better option as a utility guy.

  • Buddy

     Well said Kizz.

  • BLPCB

    Yes, him.

  • Darlin_Starlin

    Darwin Barney would be great on a good team.  It’s a shame he’ll probably be gone by the time the cubs are near contending in the NL central.

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