Ben Johnson and Josh Barfield begin to realize their potential, while Chris Oxpring continues on his…
John Conniff - First question, what have been the biggest surprise and disappointments within the system?
Kevin Goldstein - Two names that always pop out are Clayton Hamilton and Michael Ekstrom for surprises. The other name that comes to mind is Ben Johnson, as a position player who has performed better than I thought he would (Kevin had Ben ranked as the #16 prospect in the system).
John Conniff - Are you slightly skeptical of two pitchers with a good deal of college experience dominating the Midwest League? Does it bring back memories of Gabe Ribas who went 13-3 at Fort Wayne in 2003, then struggled mightily at higher levels in 2004?
Kevin Goldstein - You have to look at how old are they are, what level they are performing at, and when you see good numbers, you have to question what their stuff is like. With Ribas, he had a big changeup, and great command of a very mediocre fastball. Hamilton has a 94 fastball, Ekstrom has a good fastball, but doesn't have the same velocity of Hamilton's, so there are some differences. It's just very hard to make it to the major leagues without a big league fastball.
John Conniff - How about disappointments?
Kevin Goldstein - Well, Guzman obviously, but you can't fault someone for getting injured. Chick, but then again the Padres skipped him a level and put him in AA at 20, so he's going to struggle. Germano has taken a step backward and Bush hasn't been all that I thought he would be, especially with the bat.
John Conniff - How about the draft? Were you surprised to see the Padres go so heavy on college players again?
Kevin Goldstein - Not really, it seems more typical of what they do. Last year there were a couple of high school guys that they just liked, and we've been over the last minute problems that they had with the Bush selection.
Kevin Goldstein - Stauffer didn't surprise me, it was either going to be him or Germano if the fifth starter struggled, and he had the hot hand. Johnson was playing so well, I was happy to see him do so well because I‘ve heard so many good things about him. He has proven his success last year in Mobile, spring training and the Arizona Fall League was real. He's someone who can play CF, it might not be his best position, but he can hold can hold his own, and is not an embarrassment out there. McAnulty wasn't having a dominant year in the Southern League, but the Padres had a hole so they gave him a look.
John Conniff - The biggest surprise for pitchers this year has been Clay Hensley. Hensley barely made your depth chart at the beginning of the year, where did he come from and what do you attribute his success to?
Kevin Goldstein - Well he obviously he has taken a step up, he has never pitched like this since rookie league. His numbers look really good right now, at the very least he could be a bullpen guy.
John Conniff - Brad Baker has 22 saves so far this year, but has struggled closing out games with a significant amount of blown saves in addition to a 5.06 ERA. What do you attribute his problems too?
Kevin Goldstein - The problem is that Brad Baker is more of a reclamation project. Remember he was a first round pick of the Boston Red Sox, but his problem there was inconsistency and command problems, which seems to have reared its ugly head again. He has walked about as many people as all last year, but his command has been better of late. I think his future is more of a set up guy.
John Conniff - Justin Germano still a prospect or is he moving into the dreaded "4A" category?
Kevin Goldstein - Yeah, he he's been edging into the later category, but he has been better of late. He didn't trust his stuff when he went to the majors last year. Its not huge, but his fastball can get to 90 and 91 mph and he has a great curveball.
John Conniff - Bill Bryk of the Padres has stated that he thinks Josh Barfield needs another year in AAA, but he seems like he's really starting to turn it on. This past June he hit .336 with 4 home runs, how close is he?
Kevin Goldstein -Barfield projects as a very good offensive second baseman. He is unorthodox, but the production has always been there. I think he could be ready for ‘06. He could hit 20 home runs with a .280 batting average, but he needs a little more plate discipline.
John Conniff - When Paul McAnulty gets sent back down to the minors, does he go back to Mobile or to Portland?
Kevin Goldstein - I wouldn't assume that he wouldn‘t go back to Mobile. When they called him up, I'm sure they made it clear what was going to happen. Its no insult to send him back to Mobile. He is what he is, I'm not sure he's a good enough to be an impact offensive player for the position that he is playing.
John Conniff - Before we get into specific players, what is your overall assessment of the BayBears?
Kevin Goldstein - Every organization has at least one team that I can skip, either for position players or pitchers. Mobile is that team for position players, and overall is just not a good team in anyway.
Nick Trzesniak is at best a backup catcher, he has some skills defensively, can draw some walks, but that is about it. Kennard Jones in a perfect world may be a fifth outfielder on a major league roster, but that is a long shot at best.
Kevin Goldstein - Sean Thompson, is what he is, a lefty with a really good curve ball, but has had his struggles this year in AA. He's improved since his first month in AA, but has still given up a lot of hits. He probably projects as a fourth or probably fifth starter, or he could be a really good lefty relief pitcher . Right now his stuff, especially the big curve ball, screams lefty reliever. His fastball is probably enough to get him to the major leagues. He has a real good pickoff move, a lot of moxie. The bad thing is when he misses, he misses up, not down, which isn‘t a good thing.
Chick has struggled, but at times he has shown why he has the most upside. He has had outstanding outings, and ones where he has been really awful. Those are the things you will see from a guy who just turned 21 and who was barely was a starter last year. He has long way to go, but I still like him.Watch for Kevin Goldstein's thoughts on players from Lake Elsinore, Fort Wayne, Eugene, and Peoria later this week.