Padres Prospect Interview: Josh Barfield

San Diego Padres top prospect Josh Barfield has spent the entire season bunkered in Mobile, Alabama with the BayBears in the Southern League. Since declining to go to Baylor University, he has torn through the minor league system and is the youngest player on the Mobile roster, just 21 years young. A hamstring injury early in the year has adversely affected the second baseman.

Being sent into the Southern League as a hitter is asking for an early memorial. Being a novice in a league full of veterans is yet another obstacle to overcome.

Many figured Josh Barfield would have his troubles early on before turning it on midway through the season. One of the ten youngest players in the league has had it a little rougher than was first anticipated.

"I am very disappointed in my first half," Barfield said. "I didn't swing the bat the way I though I should have. I think it was a combination of not getting AB's in spring training and picking up some bad habits when I came back. It took me a lot longer than I would have liked to fix them but I think in the second half I have actually played pretty well."

Barfield was "hamstrung" early in the year. During spring training where he was playing with the Padres, Barfield pulled up lame with a hamstring injury. He was running out a ground ball when his left hamstring pulled taut.

He managed just five at bats with the big league club, going 2-for-5. The feeling was he may not have been ready to come back in time for the Mobile season. On April 8, he was on the field as the starting second baseman for the BayBears.

But it wasn't the same Barfield who tore through Pioneer League, Midwest League and California League pitching, hitting over .300 at each destination.

"I think I was just trying to do too much when I came back," Barfield admits. "I think because everybody was ahead of me, it kind of caused me to go outside of my swing and the things I have been doing to be successful."

And his game had changed. Barfield had been a consistent threat on the bases, despite his gaudy numbers. He had 16 stolen bases while with the Lake Elsinore Storm and 26 the year before.

But the injury to his hamstring has changed his approach on the basepaths. Granted he is also hitting third in the Mobile lineup, but his deceptive speed was an asset that made the hitters behind him better. It made the pitcher think about the threat Barfield posed on the bases and not focus as much to the hitter at the plate.

"I think so – a little bit," Barfield said of hitting third and changing his game. "I think the biggest thing has been my hamstring. I have not felt comfortable all year running. I pretty much shut down stealing bases. I just look for balls in the dirt and try to advance that way. I did not want to take any chances this year with my hamstring not feeling 100 percent."

When April ended, Barfield was batting just .237 with one homer. His highest average of the month was .256. He bounced back in May but a dismal June, where he hit .219, had some questioning whether he was the same prospect that warranted so much hype.

Then the questions began. Was the pressure of being the top prospect in the organization getting to him?

"No, I don't think so," Barfield said thoughtfully. "I don't really pay attention to that stuff. My expectations are probably higher than anybody else's. If I am reaching mine, I think I am reaching everybody else's."

Padres' Director of Player Development Tye Waller came to his defense to say he has been swinging the bat well of late and he expected Barfield to "hit around .270" by the end of the year. That was after a strong July from Barfield saw him swat seven homers and knock in 22. Since then he has tapered off in the RBI department but his batting average has remained above .250 for most of the month.

"It makes me feel good that the front office has confidence in you and that they are not down on you despite a bad first half," Barfield responded to Waller's comments. "I have those same expectations for myself too. I don't think theirs should be any different."

The year is in its stretch run and it may be hard for Barfield to reach the .270 plateau set forth for him. But the year has had its share of successes. He still leads the Southern League in RBI's, has a career high in homers and is one of the best in the league with runners in scoring position, batting .320.

Barfield remains the best prospect this organization has seen. His Mobile season may be bumpy, but he remains a threat as a minor leaguer and a sure bet to make it to the Majors.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

MadFriars Top Stories