Today at VEB, DanUp makes a well-reasoned case for signing former top Astro prospect Chris Burke to be the team’s utility man. Dave Cameron is arguing for Burke as well. While the team could do worse than Burke, I think it would behoove the Birds to first take a look in their own backyard, particularly at Brian Barden.
Neither player is anything flashy with the bat, and Burke was particularly awful last year, hitting for a .582 OPS. Burke’s Marcel projection has him pegged for a .303 wOBA, while Barden a .316. While Barden is expected to be the better with the bat, that’s a whole lot of meh for both batters…
What makes either of these players an asset to a major league team is their glove….or should I say gloves? Dave takes a look at Burke’s UZR numbers and notes that he is a very good 2B and corner outfielder. We don’t have UZR for the minor leagues, but if we did, I’d be tempted to do a naked jig in the 2 degree temperatures I am experiencing in Iowa right now. What we do have is Baseball Prospectus’ FRAA on their translations page, and they tell us that Barden was a +7 at SS last season, one of the best defensive SS in the league. We also have Dan Fox’s Simple Fielding Runs from last year, and with his former team Tucson, Barden was +11 at 3B. All of this goes with positive scouting reports. When Baseball America polled PCL managers and coaches in 2005, they voted Barden the best defensive 3B in the league.
With Barden you have someone who is a little younger, a little better of a hitter or at least equal, more defensively versatile and available at a cheaper rate. Seems to me that he is the definition of a utility man, so at age 27, why not give him a shot already?