From the AFL: Josh Barfield Interview

From the AFL: Josh Barfield Interview

<b>Phoenix-</b> Josh Barfield might be the top prospect in the San Diego Padres' system. He plays the same position as Mark Loretta, arguably the 2004 Padres' MVP. He is truly a five tool player. Yet it seems everybody keeps asking about his father.

"I sort of feel like I always have a target on my back because I'm the son of a former Major League Player," Barfield said at Phoenix Municipal Stadium shortly before his Peoria Javelinas took on the Phoenix Desert Dogs in an Arizona Fall League game Wednesday.

It isn't unusual down here to find (at least) second generation ball players. The sons of Tommy Herr, Tony Pena, Joe Niekro, and Tony Gwynn are all in the same boat; live up to expectations set before the majority of these kids were even born.

No whining will come out of Josh Barfield though.

"It actually helps me, because when someone says, 'You're the top prospect,' it doesn't faze me. I've dealt with the expectations all my life, it just becomes another challenge."

While some might shy away from the spotlight cast by their father, Barfield bathes in it.

"We talk every day. He's always there letting me know what to expect, what's next for me, and it helps."

Not that anyone would expect the younger Barfield to need that much help. He has the unique ability to rise above any situation, even when he's not at his best. After his promotion to Double-A this season Barfield went through a little slump, but his RBI numbers don't reflect that.

"He was only hitting something like .250, that's a slump for him," Desert Dogs pitching coach Gary Lance, who watched Barfield everyday in AA Mobile, says, "but it seemed like every time there were men on base, and men in scoring position, he came through. You can't teach that, it is just something that you have naturally."

Barfield is aware of how big that ability is.

"That's money time, and I guess I might focus more when there are men on base. I'm not sure why, I just know that's when you need to deliver, in the crunch."

The jump from A-ball to AA-ball is often considered the biggest jump a player will make before he actually gets a shot in the majors, but Barfield is confident that his 'slump' had less to do with the pitchers he faced and more to do with his swing.

"I just developed a couple of bad habits, and we've been working those out," Barfield said. "It's all about the mechanics, and that's when [Padres roving minor league hitting coach Rob] Deer really helps.

"He just stays positive, and relates really well to the hitters. A lot of what he does is just build confidence, but he also sees things in my swing. When he talks to young hitters, he just makes us all feel more comfortable."

There is a lot of speculation that Barfield will make the Padres in Spring Training, but barring a highly unlikely position change, he might see most of his Major League time from the bench. playing behind Loretta.

Which is better, riding the pine in majors, or playing everyday in AAA? He pauses for a second, it isn't so much about the answer, as it is how to answer:

Finally he just decides the best way is to say it flat out.

"I want to be in the Majors," Barfield says flashing that trademark smile. "That's everybody's goal here."

James Renwick is Managing Editor for FutureBacks.com and reports live from the Arizona Fall League for Scout.com and MadFriars.com.

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