Darwin Barney was among the 9 candidates Baseball Prospectus highlighted today in their Regression Candidates article. I think it goes without saying that Barney is likely to regress, but I'm sure a lot of Cubs fans don't agree with that.
I really don't know that I actually think Barney will decline this season, but I do think he'll be one of the more interesting players to watch in 2013. Barney had a remarkable defensive season last year, and that was illustrated in pretty much all the advanced fielding metrics and certainly by the eyeball test of those who watched him on a daily basis. And the Gold Glove. Sorry, Keith Law. You know way more about baseball than me. But I will fight you over the notion that Barney numbers were solely due to the improved positioning of the Cubs' fielders. It did not explain Barney's season. And the guy can be a legit starting shortstop in the majors, with the glove anyway. Seriously. I will fight you about this.
Barney is now considered a core piece by the Cubs' progressive front office, a long-term solution, or at least he is if you believe the things that come out of the mouths of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Last season, just as an example, Barney ranked 15th in the NL with 4.6 WAR, per Baseball Reference. Most of that was entirely doing to the fielding component of that formula—3.6 of the 4.6. The season before, in virtually the same amount of playing time, Barney recorded 0.6 defensive WAR. I'm not sure what to do with that information. I know he was a joy to watch, but I have little faith his defense can have that level of statistical impact ever again. Hoyer has said that the Cubs feel Barney has more offensive upside than he's shown, but saying someone has more upside than a .299 OBP is damning with faint praise. Even while acknowledging the gaps in our knowledge about measuring individual defense and the career patterns related to that, I feel like it's a good bet that Barney will suffer a value hit in 2013. —Bradford Doolittle