Name: Emilio Bonifacio
Born: Santo Domingo, D.R.
Position: Second Base
Weight: 180 lbs
History: If you remove the ballpark-inflated 2006 season from Emilio Bonifacio's stat line, you notice a steady increase in batting average as he has advanced through the organization. This is a great sign, since the 23-year old has always been young for the level at which he has played.
* Statistics through June 19
You might not think that striking out more frequently than once every four at bats represents an improvement in pitch recognition, but in Bonifacio's case, it does. This is crucial to his development as a ballplayer. He's a kid with all the raw tools and a tremendous work ethic, but he still lacks discipline and control of his skills.
"He plays at 100 miles an hour," said infield coordinator Tony Perezchica. "We've got to harness all that energy and smooth it out a little bit more."
If Bonifacio can indeed reach his potential, that would make him a fantastic leadoff hitter. We see glimpses of that potential when he gets on hot streaks, such as the one he is on now. Despite his high batting average this month, he's only walked twice in this span. He still needs to put it all together.
Batting and Power: The fact that he is a switch hitter makes the developmental process a longer one for Bonifacio. He's actually been better swinging left-handed than from his natural right side of late, but the need to hone two swings instead of one is a likely cause of his inconsistency on offense.
Bonifacio has added considerable muscle to his frame over the years, and could be considered wiry-strong. He still does not have home run power, however. Considering that, he really does have a long swing that, combined with sub-par pitch recognition, causes him to strike out frequently when a pitcher changes speeds on him.
When he does make contact, it usually solid. He would be better served to make more contact, even if it only produced weak ground balls. Any ground ball on the infield has a chance to turn into a hit for Bonifacio, particularly the slow ones.
Base Running and Speed: The reason for that is his tremendous speed. He has been the fastest player in the organization ever since Marland Williams was released, with only Tyrell Worthington providing him with serious competition for that title these days. That said, his stolen base numbers are actually down this year, despite the fact that he has reached base more often than in the past.
More than just raw speed, Bonifacio gets good jumps and makes good decisions on the bases. Of course, the blazing wheels aid him on the other side of the ball, as well.
Defense: Bonifacio played a lot of shortstop last summer and a lot of corner outfield last winter. Prior to 2007, he had only played at second base.
"Defensively, he played a solid short at Mobile," Perezchica decided. "He's very fundamentally sound. He's almost a guy who was too quick when he played second base. He was a little bit erratic at that position because of the speed. But I think when you put him on the other side, it almost equals out."
"He sets his feet good. I would say he's got an average arm from shortstop. He gets the ball there, and a lot of his throws were accurate. Is he a true shortstop? No, he's still learning that position, because he never really played it coming up with us. Learning the shortstop position is a big boost, because it's going to make you better anywhere else in the infield."
Bonifacio can cover lots of ground no matter where he plays. It is surprising that he has been used in right field but not center, given that his range is a stronger asset than his arm. It's also debatable as to whether Bonifacio will hit well enough to play much corner outfield in the major leagues.
Major League Clone: Chone Figgins
Prediction: Chip Hale, third base coach for the Diamondbacks, once told us that Bonifacio reminded him of "a young Luis Castillo." Frankly, at age 23, Castillo was already a .300 hitter in the major leagues who could draw 70 walks per year. Bonifacio's versatility and propensity to strike out make him more comparable to Figgins.
ETA: Orlando Hudson's contract expires at the end of the year. Although he has expressed interest in staying with the Diamondbacks, no deal appears imminent. Bonifacio may not be ready to take over full time in '09. While his skill set, it could be tempting to use him as a utility player while someone else remains the everyday second baseman, and he should get another call in that role this September. But Bonifacio would really benefit from one more full season in Triple-A to groom himself to be a starter.
"He needs to continue to develop, and we think he can be a great everyday player," said Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin. "But we envision him being an every day player at some point."
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