Best of the Organization: The Top 5 Second Basemen

What is state of second base in the Padres organization? Depends on how you look at it. Are we deep? No. Do we have a second baseman of the future? Yes. <b>#5) Bernie Castro</b> --Unfortunately a suspension was the most notable part of the 2004 for the young second baseman, who might have topped this list two years ago, and now is in danger of falling off of it. There is no doubt that Castro is blessed with great speed, but even his stolen base numbers dropped dramatically in '04.

He swiped only 17 bags (he had grabbed at least 40 in every season of pro ball before '04, topping out at 75 in 2001 when he was in the Yankees organization).  Going into 2004 he was looked at as a potential utility player who could have found himself on the Padres roster before the end of the year.  Going into 2005 he had the opportunity to leave as a six year free agent but stayed with the organization, quite possibly because the combination of a down year and a mysterious suspension might have limited other team's interest in him. 

#4)  Peter Ciofrone --The player to be named later in the Brandon Puffer trade with the Red Sox Ciofrone was looked at as a second baseman with enough arm and enough pop in his bat to maybe be moved to the hot corner.  That is, until they saw Ciofrone play second base.  A mind numbing 12 errors in less than 100 chances squashed any move except to the outfield, something Ciofrone will likely have to face if his glove work doesn't improve dramatically in '05.

It never appeared Ciofrone got comfortable at Fort Wayne last season after coming from Augusta and the Red Sox organization.  With a full season of familiar surroundings the Padres hope both his bat (his average dipped 25 points after switching from the Southern League to the Midwest League) and his glove settle in.

#3)  Peeter Ramos --If Ramos needs a nickname then let it be 'Speeter' because this kid can fly.  Though it might be his only plus tool Ramos' speed is quite the calling card to have.  After being signed as an undrafted free agent he has moved up the ladder as quickly as he can, which is to say as quickly as Barfield has.  Ramos might have moved more quickly if not for Barfield, as he's demonstrated excellent command of the strike zone (less than 200 Ks in almost 1200 minor league at bats).

Unfortunately that command of the strike zone has not turned into bases on balls (only 110 walks in those nearly 1200 at bats), which leads to a less than lead off worthy .337 On Base Percentage.  His ticket to the majors might be to work more at shortstop and third base and become a speedy infield utility guy.

#2)  Kelvin Vasquez --He's very young, and with only one year of pro ball under his belt Vasquez has impressed.  One major reason why is a very smooth conversion to second base, another is 22 walks in just 180 at bats.  His arm might have been a shade weak to play the position he was drafted at, third base, but at second it is a plus arm and his work turning the double play has surprised many coaches.

Vasquez will have to cut down on his strikeouts, but the Padres will be careful not to curb his aggressiveness too much, as it makes for big hits in big situations.  Though he hit only one homer in the Rookie Ball his body has room to fill out and turning his gap power into home run power is not out of the question.

#1)  Josh Barfield --When you're selected in the fourth round of the 2001 draft, and somebody calls you a 'steal' it might seem a little off, but Barfield could be just that.  In 2004 he had the usual glitches, most notably an average that dropped from .337 in Hi-A Lake Elsinore in 2003 to .248 in his first season at Double-A Mobile.  Why would an organization remain so high on a kid whose average dropped 89 points?  Because he hit .331 with runners in scoring position. 

"That's money time, and I guess I might focus more when there are men on base. I'm not sure why, I just know that's when you need to deliver, in the crunch." Barfield said during the Arizona Fall League season, where he hit .319 and showed signs of working out what he described as 'bad habits' he'd picked up. 

Barfield made the 40 man roster, was named the #1 prospect in the Padres organization by Baseball America, and should compete to the make the Padres in Spring Training, but most in the organization feel he will be better off getting a full season of at bats at Triple-A than the very limited duty he would be likely to see with the Padres.

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