I don't really know why, but whenever I think about Darwin Barney I want to pronounce his name with a Boston accent. I guess it makes it more fun to think about Dahwin Bahney rather than what Barney is actually capable of producing. He returns for his 2nd full season though he's probably not the one who should be starting. He may not even be the best back-up 2nd baseman the Cubs have.
Barney got off to a strong start last season and led people to believe that we'd be seeing a middle infield of Barney and Castro for a long time. HIs .326 batting average was good for only a .351, but he managed to slug over .440. We knew that wouldn't continue. His wRC+ in April was 113. It then dropped to 75 in May, 45 in June and finished the season with 91, 77, and 64 wRC+ in the final 3 months. April was the only month in which his wOBA was higher than .300. Offense was down last year and that's not as bad it sounds as a result. On the season he was worth 2.2 WAR and about half of that was was batting. He was also very good on the bases (+6 runs) and UZR has him as +5 fielding. Barney was known as a very good fielding SS coming up through the system so we expected him to be quite good at 2nd. Total Zone and DRS weren't as kind defensively though. Given the amount of uncertainty in defensive metrics, I'm much more inclined to trust the scouting reports.
If you think Barney can provide even a passable level of offense you probably think he can continue to play every day. His defense and baserunning are both good enough that it's possible, but the question is whether or not he can hit enough. Below are his 2012 projections.
Barney has no power at all and as a result pitchers aren't going to pitch around him. They'll attack the zone early so he's not going to draw many walks. He also makes frequent contact so pitches that are in the zone he's more likely to put in play than someone who doesn't make a lot of contact.
Baker's numbers aren't pretty either. He can hit lefties, but you can't platoon two righties. Cardenas does hit from the left side, but he doesn't appear to be all that much better than either of Baker or Barney. Below are his projections.
The Cubs 2nd basemen aren't going to set the world on fire. Jeff Baker is their best 2B and has only a .308 projected wOBA. Next is Cardenas whose projected wOBA is only .300 and then the probable starter and perhaps leadoff man is the worst at .296. Baker's CAIRO is a .337 wOBA vs lefties while Barney's is .311 vs lefties. There's really no way that Barney can make up the difference with his defense and baserunning to deserve playing time over Barney. Cardenas would be the best vs right handers, but he's yet to prove he can play even part time.
PECOTA projects 1 WAR out of Baker and Barney and they have -.3 WAR for Cardenas at 3rd base. Off the top of my head I was going to say that this group would probably be expected to be no better than 1 WAR. Of the 3 positions we've looked at so far, this is perhaps the weakest. It's pretty close to 1st base where we have 1 WAR projection between LaHair, Rizzo and Baker. That's a lot friendlier than PECOTA. They have -.6 WAR for LaHair, -.6 WAR for Rizzo and .3 WAR for Baker. My instincts tell me that LaHair and Rizzo both beat their PECOTA projection and other projections agree with that. But not by much. Behind the plate we had a solid 2.8 WAR projection.