The Chicago Cubs embark upon the 2014 season after an off-season that saw the team made little changes to the Major League roster. In 2014, the Cubs will hope for improvement from their position players and pitching staff after a 2013 season that saw the team lose 96 games.
Darwin Barney was the Cubs starting second baseman in 2013 and currently is penciled in to be the Cubs starting second baseman to begin the 2014 season.
There is one flaw with that projection; the flaw being that Barney is not a starting second baseman. That is also a flaw that is likely recognized by the Cubs front office.
Barney is without question one of most intelligent baseball players on the Cubs roster but that does not hide the fact that his abilities are limited. At least, that is the case when it comes to Barney’s offensive production. With the Cubs in 2013, Barney hit .208/.266/.303 in 555 plate appearances. To further expose Barney’s offensive shortcomings, the second baseman had wOBA of .252 last season to go along with a wRC+ of 51.
For as great as Barney has been defensively, 15.o UZR in 2012 and 12.8 UZR in 2013, can the Cubs afford to keep him in the everyday lineup considering his offensive struggles?
Barney’s struggles offensively may be related to his BABIP. Barney has a career BABIP of .270. A mark that the second baseman came close to in 2012 when he had a BABIP of .273. Barney finished the 2012 season with a slash line of .254/.299/.354. In 2013, Barney possessed a BABIP of .222.
If Barney can raise his BABIP in 2014, perhaps he could go from offensively costing the Cubs with a wRAA of -27.0 runs last season to aiding the Cubs offense this season.
Though, Barney’s days as a starter may be numbered. The Cubs have a number of infield prospects making their way through the system including Javier Baez and Kris Bryant. If Bryant and Baez both make their way to the Major League level this season, then Barney may be pushed out of a starting spot.
But for now, Barney is manning the second base position for the Cubs.