Padres Prospect Report: JJ Furmaniak

The San Diego Padres drafted JJ Furmaniak in the 22nd round of the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft. Furmaniak has steadily climbed the ladder of success to be considered a prospect after a successful 2003 campaign. He will look to continue that trend in Mobile in 2004.

It all started for JJ Furmaniak when he joined the Pioneer short season League in 2000 as a 21 year old.

Furmaniak appeared in 62 of the Padres 74 games, hitting .343 with 84 hits, 18 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs, 38 RBI's and 10 stolen bases.

Furmaniak led the league in runs scored, was 6th in the league in hitting and 3rd in the league in doubles. As a reward he was selected the Pioneer League's all-star shortstop.

The Idaho Falls Padres eventually went on to win the Pioneer League Championship that season and Furmaniak was selected Most Valuable Player during the 5-game playoffs, hitting .450 with 2 home runs (including a grand slam) and 11 RBI's in 20 at bats.

Everything looked rosy and he was promoted to Fort Wayne in 2001. His play there was not as glowing. He struggled to a .220 average and had just eight more hits (96) in 61 more games. He also drove in less runs (35) than 2000, and scored 15 fewer times (57). His homer totals stayed stagnant at five and his doubles were upped by just six (24).

After what turned out to be a dismal season, Furmaniak was promoted again – this time to Lake Elsinore. Considered a hitters league, the promotion did him well. He spent 2002 adjusting and upped his average to .257 with seven homers and 43 RBI's. Not fantastic numbers and it may have dipped his prospect status that year to a whisper.

Furmaniak rebounded from his dismal 2001 and sub par 2002, where some suspect he tried to hit for more power, to post great numbers in 2003. His average jumped to .314, and his .921 OPS was an indication of his ability to not only get on base, but his ability to use the gaps as his friend and not worry so much about jacking one out every time up. Furmaniak also added nine homers and 54 RBI's. He made it to the first-half California League All-Star game in 2003 playing for Lake Elsinore. He played the entire game at shortstop as a reward for his deserving first half in Lake Elsinore. Of all his battles won in 2003, Furmaniak had an All-Star game to forget. He committed an error, which led to a run and struck out to end the game.

"He was playing "over his head" at Elsinore where he was surrounded by good hitters in the order in a good hitters league," said one Padres scout.

Any way you look at it, his play eventually earned him a promotion to Double A Mobile where he struggled early on, fractured his hand, before having a strong finish.

"Defensively, he needs to find consistency," said the scout. "He will make a great play one minute and then boot a routine grounder the next."

Mobile BayBears announcer Tom Nichols wasn't ready to throw him to the wolves, commenting on his defensive prowess, "He made more great plays than Khalil Greene did for us this year but also made more mistakes.

"He had a great first half at Lake Elsinore this season, and then had ups and downs in Mobile."

He hit .262 in Mobile and actually played better after sitting out close to three weeks with a wrist injury.

The major difference in his success from 2002 to 2003 was his ability to cutdown on his strikeouts. He whiffed 100 times in 106 games in 2002 and K'ed 82 times in 109 games in 2003. He also walked 18 times more from the previous year. Basically, it boils down to increased plate discipline. Now he must sustain it.

Right now Furmaniak remains at shortstop, but depending on where Josh Barfield ends up, he is currently playing second base, Furmaniak could conceivably play at another position. He has played all the positions in the infield and is open to playing outfield as well.

"Furmaniak is an organizational type player who will be the Mobile shortstop in 2004," said Nichols.

Organizational – as in every team needs a guy like this. He puts it all on the line and is grounded enough to make an excellent utility player. As previous role players have shown, once they get the start they may even shine and become everyday players.

Denis Savage can be reached at

MadFriars Top Stories