Second baseman Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs demonstrates his mastery of The Force through levitation. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Prospect of the Day: Darwin Barney
Darwin Barney, 2B, Chicago Cubs
Rookie Darwin Barney has taken over the second base position for the Chicago Cubs this year, hitting .331/.355/.424 in his first 32 games, while playing strong defense. No one saw Darwin Barney as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate pre-season, but he's playing like one right now. Who is he, and how did this happen?
Barney was drafted by the Cubs in the fourth round in 2007, out of Oregon State University. He is a line drive hitter with little power; he had just 10 career homers in 1546 minor league at-bats, with a career line of .286/.334/.374. But he makes contact, will knock an occasional double, and runs well enough to pick up a few steals. He should not be expected to hit .331 over a full major league season. Even in college, his highest batting average was .330 as a sophomore in 2006. Based on his minor league track record, he should hit somewhere between .250 and .270 at the major league level, without a lot of power.
Where Barney excels is on defense. Although his arm is mediocre for shortstop, he has very good range, soft hands, and is extremely reliable. He can handle third base in an emergency, but his best position overall is second base, where his range and reliability stand out. His work ethic and makeup are highly-regarded.
Barney has always profiled best as a utility infielder. Even with his hot start this year, that remains true in the long run. He reportedly underwent a rigorous workout program this winter. While it is tempting to attribute his success to that, given the small samples involved and his lack of improved Isolated Power, I wouldn't jump to conclusions that his talent profile has truly changed. Expect his bat to come back to earth, but also expect to see him on major league rosters for the next decade.