The 5-11, 170-pound Watkins has been doing some of the things in the minor leagues that the 5-10, 185-pound Barney has been doing in the majors.
"They are very similar players," said Brian Harper, who is the Mesa Solar Sox hitting coach in the Arizona Fall League and soon-to-be hitting coach for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. "They are both line drive hitters with some pop. Obviously Watkins has some work to do to get up to Barney's level, but the approach and the desire to do well is the same."
The 23-year-old Watkins was the Cubs organization player of the year after a solid season at Double-A Tennessee. He hit .281 with 28 stolen bases and a .383 OBP. When Javier Baez broke his thumb in the Arizona Fall League, Watkins answered the call.
"He’s a ballplayer," Harper said. "He is just one of those guys that does a bunch of things to help you win. He runs well, hits the ball hard and gets the job done on defense."
The Cubs' 21st-round draft pick in 2008 worked with Barney last spring on the physical and mental approach to the game.
"I am good friends with Darwin," Watkins said. "I respect him a lot, he is a great second baseman and has just won a Gold Glove this year.
"I don’t know if sometime soon we will both be on the same team or one of us will move someplace else. That is kind of the business of baseball. Let’s be honest, the Cubs look pretty good with (Starlin) Castro and Barney up the middle for a while. “
Watkins played in 10 games for the Solar Sox and hopes this experience helps enhance his chances of moving up to the next level.
”This experience has been great for me," Watkins said. "This has helped me improve my game. As far as player development it has helped me as a hitter a fielder and a base runner. The Cubs did me a favor by asking me to come here and I feel fortunate to have played in the Fall League."
Watkins has worked with Barney at the Mesa facility before spring training began the last two years.
"He inspires me with the feisty way he approaches everything," Watkins said. "He was a shortstop and a pretty good one before they asked him to move to a position he never played. Two years later he set a record for errorless games. That type of hard work and results can’t help but motivate you."
Every player in the Fall League believes he is very close to a big league career and Watkins is no different.
"I think everyone in this league will tell you they think they can play with anybody” he said. "I came here late but I don’t feel at any point I was overmatched. I hope my career is with the Cubs but that is in their hands. The only thing I can control is how I play and hopefully things will work out."