Darwin Barney, second baseman for the Chicago Cubs, is truly living the dream. In the month of April, he hit for a batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage line of .326/.351/.449 (.801 OPS, .348 wOBA), typically batting either ahead or behind shortstop Starlin Castro. He also lived up to the stellar defensive reputation he brought with him from the minor leagues, showing great range and consistency at the second base position. And, perhaps most remarkable of all, he did what many said he never would -- secured his place as a starting player (at least for the time being).â†µ
Thanks to all of these accomplishments, Barney has been named the National League Rookie of the Year (presented by Gillette). By now, Darwin has presumably received his "specially designed trophy, suitably engraved" for a solid open to the season.
The 25-year-old infielder was picked by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 2007 amateur draft. As mentioned, he made his way through the minors showing off a slick glove and a savvy approach to the game. His bat, however, has never projected as starting-player quality. He hits for little power (though he did hit his first MLB home run on April 25) and even had a middling career OBP in the minors (.334 in four seasons). Barney's also not appreciably fast on the basepaths.â†µ
There is, however, that glove. A natural shortstop, he offers outstanding range and a strong arm at second base. If he can somehow hit just enough to hold down the position, Barney and Castro could make an excellent -- even spectacular -- defensive middle infield for the Cubs this season and possibly beyond. So while you're oohing and ahhing over Darlin' Starlin, be sure to keep an eye on the guy standing next to him on the diamond. One good month doesn't guarantee anything, but it's a great start for a guy who's exceeding expectations.