First Month Highlights: Portland Beavers

First Month Highlights: Portland Beavers

The Triple-A Portland Beavers have been a nice little team in the first month of the season. Problem is they were supposed to be stocked with 'almost there' talent ready to dominate and earn promotions. Senior Writer John Conniff talks about the ups and mostly downs in Portland, highlighting the best and most disappointing the Beavers have to offer.

Portland Beavers - Pacific Coast League (AAA)

Going into the season, the Beavers easily were the Padres best minor league team with an assortment of veteran position players, two highly touted prospects from last year's championship team in Mobile and, arguably, the league‘s best pitching staffs.

Instead, the Beavers are mired with a .500 record and have been disappointing offensively, batting only .243 in the Pacific Coast League, which is currently second to last for the month of April.

Injuries have knocked out first baseman Tagg Bozied, although he is expected back within two weeks, centerfielder Freddy Guzman, out for the year, and, in addition, outfielder Jon Knott has struggled but is recently showing signs of regaining his power stroke. J.J. Furmaniak, one of the many holdovers from the previous year, is still performing well below how last years breakout performance with a .241 batting average and limited power.

Both second baseman Josh Barfield (.237/.306/.355 with three home runs and ten RBIs) and outfielder Ben Johnson (.222/.325/.347 with one home run and eight RBIs) have again shown power and an ability to drive in runs, but continue to struggle with pitch recognition and making contact.

Position Player of note: None

Former fringe Major League players Damian Jackson, Kerry Robinson and Robert Fick have all played well, but none of them will offer the Major League team anything more than potential replacements for struggling reserves.

Bobby Scales and Ben Risinger have also played well, but both have been tagged with the dreaded "were developing them as a utility player" label by Padres' management and appear to be more "organizational players" than potential Major League players.

Pitcher of note: Tim Stauffer

With the Padres continuing struggles at the number five slot, a promotion of Tim Stauffer appears imminent. In five starts, Stauffer posted a 3.03 ERA with a 2-0 record with seven base-on-balls to 23 strikeouts. However, he has proven to be quite "hittable" giving up 28 hits in 29.2 innings pitched.

While Stauffer has put together a solid first month, the Padres may want to hold off on promoting him until he's had a few more starts in the minor leagues. How Stauffer's ability will translate to the major league level is the $64,000 question. Although he can throw four pitches for strikes, he also lacks a true dominant out pitch. Remember, last year was Stauffer's first professional year and he didn't exactly shine in spring training this year (5.65 ERA, 20 hits in 14.1 innings with 9 earned runs).

A few more starts, with an increase in his ability to miss bats should not only refine his ability, but bolster his confidence for the next level.

The North County Times reported on Sunday that Padres general manager Kevin Towers, in response to when Stauffer would be promoted to the big league club, stated that Stauffer needs about 10 starts before he's ready for the big leagues.

Kevin Goldstein, the writer who ranked the Padres top 30 prospects for Baseball America's Prospect Handbook, upon reviewing Stauffer's statistics for this month said, "he's still a little hittable, with a ceiling that is more of a number three or number four starter as opposed to a number one or two starter. He probably will have slightly more of an upside and polish than Justin Germano, although both a very similar pitchers."

Highly touted reliever Brad Baker has struggled early in Portland with a 7.27 ERA, giving up seven earned runs and ten walks in eight innings. Although Baker does have five saves, he will need to rein in the walks, something he did a year ago.

Justin Germano has similar peripheral statistics, innings pitched, base-on-ball to strike out ratios, as Stauffer with a big exception of home runs given up, five to one. If Justin can somehow control the big fly, his 6.00 ERA should come back down to normal.

Stats current through May 1st.

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