1) Josh Barfield – 2B – After the season Mr. Barfield had in 2003, every list of Padres' prospects should begin with him. Barfield didn't just have the best season of any Padres' farmhand, but one of the best seasons in all of the minor leagues. He recently finished in the top five for the Minor League Player of the Year named by Baseball America. He was MVP of the California League and also appeared in the Futures All-Star Game. There weren't many offensive categories where Barfield wasn't in the top 5! For the season, the 20-year-old hit .337 with 16 homers, 128 RBI, 99 runs, 185 hits, 46 doubles, six triples and even stole 16 bases in 20 attempts. The only two things it appears Barfield needs to work on are his defense (20 errors) and his plate discipline (122 strikeouts vs. 50 walks).
2) Jon Knott – OF/1B – The 25-year-old Knott has only been in professional baseball for two season since his playing days at Mississippi St. But those two seasons have turned him into a true prospect after being undrafted. In 2002, Knott hit .341 with Lake Elsinore with eight homers. In 2003, Knott raised his power numbers greatly (27 HR), but his average suffered as he only hit .252 at Mobile. But that number must be taken in its context, as the Southern League is a pitcher's paradise. Knott also compiled a very good .387 on-base percentage. He is definitely a hitter to keep an eye on next season.
3) Humberto Quintero - C – The 24-year-old Venezuelan is currently getting a cup of coffee with the Padres after a very impressive 2003 season at Mobile. The stocky 5'10" catcher is supposedly a fantastic defensive catcher with an arm reminiscent of Pudge Rodriguez. The question concerning Quintero was always if he could hit enough. This season, he may have answered that question by hitting .298 with a respectable .343 on-base percentage. His average was good for eighth in the pitcher-friendly Southern League. Quintero was named to the All-Star team and if the Padres sign a short-term solution at catcher for 2004 such as Benito Santiago that may be an indication that Quintero is right in the middle of their future plans.
4) Freddy Guzman – OF – The 22-year-old sped his way through the Padres' system in 2003…literally. Beginning the year at Lake Elsinore, moving to Mobile and finishing at Portland, Guzman stole 90 bases in 107 attempts (84 %). If you haven't figured it out by now, Freddy is fast…real fast. He also can hit a little bit compiling a .285 batting average at Lake Elsinore and a .271 average at Mobile. Also, his on-base percentage never dropped below .368, a key attribute for a budding leadoff man. It seems Padres' GM Kevin Towers fell in love with this guy in 2003 and he might be in the Padres' plans sometime soon. I see him as a future Juan Pierre-type.
5) Bernie Castro – 2B – the 23-year-old Castro is also a speedster in the mold of Freddy Guzman. Unfortunately, Castro suffered a torn ACL late in the season and we will have to wait to find out how that may affect his greatest asset, his speed. Castro was a Pacific Coast League All-Star hitting .303 with a .347 on-base percentage and stealing 49 bases in 62 attempts. Although he seems to be a very nice prospect, Castro plays the wrong position in the Padres' system if he wants to make it to the big leagues. Ahead of him in the majors is Padres' MVP Mark Loretta and behind him is former 1st-round pick Jake Gautreau and stud Josh Barfield.
6) Khalil Greene – SS – The 23-year-old Greene is the Padres' future at shortstop, no questions asked. Greene at the present moment is receiving a lot of playing time for the Padres and holding his own. The Padres' 2002 1st-round pick started the year at Mobile before really breaking out at Portland. Greene hit .288 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in only 76 games for the Beavers playing stellar defense along the way. He will hopefully be a fixture at shortstop for the Padres for the next 10 years.
Others deserving mention: J.J. Furmaniak (IF), Jon Benick (1B), Josh Carter (OF), Greg Sain (3B/C), Nick Trzesniak (C), Jake Gautreau (2B), Tagg Bozied (1B/OF), Alex Fernandez (OF)
1) Gabe Ribas – RHP – the 23-year-old Ribas began the 2003 season by dominating hitters at Class A Fort Wayne. Named to the mid-season All-Star team in June, Ribas was promoted to Lake Elsinore soon after that. The 6'4" flamethrower didn't fare as well at Lake Elsinore, but he still had a fantastic 2003. Ribas compiled a 17-8 record with a 3.29 ERA in 28 combined starts. In 164 innings, Ribas struck out 152 while walking only 40.
2) Javier Martinez – RHP – Martinez, 20, was once considered the Padres' right-handed version of Oliver Perez. Of course, Perez was dealt to Pittsburgh, but Martinez remains. That's a very good thing. The slender 6'3", 170-pounder pitched extremely well in 16 starts for the Storm compiling a 6-3 record and a 3.23 ERA in what is generally regarded as a hitter's league. The Mexico native's performance is even more impressive considering he was young for the league.
3) Chris Oxspring – RHP –Although Oxspring, 26, is a bit old to be considered a prospect, you can't overlook his success at Mobile in 2003. Pitching mostly in relief early in the season, Oxspring later moved to the rotation and took off. Overall, the 6"0' from Australia was 10-6 with a 2.92 ERA in 135 2/3 innings. He only allowed 106 hits while striking out 129. The only other drawback besides his age is Oxspring's propensity for walks (62 in 2003).
4) Rusty Tucker – LHP – the 22-year-old Tucker unfortunately blew out his arm late in the 2003 season and underwent Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. It's expected that he will not return until 2005. But before the injury, Tucker was one of the most dominant closers in the minors compiling 28 saves and 63 strikeouts in 53 innings. He is a flamethrower who regularly hits the high 90s on the radar gun. Hopefully that speed will return post-surgery and along with it, a pitcher who understands the game of baseball a little more.
5) Matt Bruback – RHP – The situation of how the Padres acquired this guy baffles me. Only 24 with very solid minor league stats, Bruback appeared to be one of the main pieces of the Pirates-Cubs trade that sent Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez to Chicago. But about a month later, Bruback was released by Pittsburgh and smartly snatched up by Kevin Towers. His solid numbers at Triple-A (12-10, 3.93 ERA, 118 Ks in 167 2/3 innings) indicate to me he will eventually turn into a solid long reliever and spot starter in the majors, possibly as early as next season.
Others deserving mention: Brad Baker (RHP), Justin Germano (RHP), Clay Hensley (RHP), Chris Tierny (LHP), Mike Wodnicki (RHP), Bryan Gaal (RHP), Rene Miniel (RHP), Alan Webb (LHP), Cliff Bartosh (LHP), Ben Howard (RHP), Dennis Tankersley (RHP)
Dave Holtzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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