After taking a look at the starting pitching battle last week, its time to look at the other big battle shaping up for this spring, the battle for the second base job.
Darwin Barney is the incumbent, but there are questions about his ability and whether he would be better suited for an utility position. Adrian Cardenas, recently acquired off waivers from the Oakland A's, should be Barney's main competition for the job, but there are questions about his defense. Meanwhile, Blake DeWitt, who was demoted to AAA Iowa to make room for Cardenas on the 40-man roster, could still factor into the equation.
Here's a look at what each of them bring to the table:
Barney hit a respectable .276 in 2011, but he seemed to wear down as the season progressed, hitting only .238 in the second half, compared to .306 in the first half. In addition, he drew only 22 walks in 581 plate appearances, which produce only a .313 OBP for the year. He put together a decent year defensively, with a .981 fielding percentage and a 4.50 range factor, both of which put him in the middle of the pack in the NL. He needs to cut down on his errors, as his 12 error in 2011 ranked 4th in the NL, but some of that can be attributed to rookie mistakes. The job is probably his to lose, but as the primary backup to Starlin Castro at short, the Cubs are probably wondering if he can do both.
A career .303/.368/.413 hitter in 6 minor league seasons, the former first round pick certainly has shown an ability to hit in the minors. In fact his career minor league numbers are superior to those of Barney (.287/.335/.376). His career .976 fielding percentage and 4.54 range factor in the minors is comparable to Barney's 2011 stats, however Barney was still transitioning to the second base role after playing mostly shortstop in the minors. Cardenas has also played short, third and outfield in the minors and could be considered a utility type as well.
Gone but not forgotten, DeWitt will be battling for any role he can get with the Cubs, but his best chance may be to overtake Barney or Cardenas for the second base job. The main piece acquired from the Dodgers in the Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot trade, DeWitt hasn't shown much with the Cubs the last two years, hitting just .258/.309/.396. His career fielding percentage at second of .979 is comparable to those of Barney and Cardenas, but his range factor of 4.29 is a bit lower. He is fighting a major uphill battle and one that he likely won't win.
Barney will likely begin the season as the starting second baseman, with Cardenas filling the utility role. However, if he struggles, look for Cardenas to get a shot.