June Players of the Month for Portland

Ben Johnson and Josh Barfield begin to realize their potential, while Chris Oxpring continues on his roller coaster season. Senior Writer John Conniff ranks the best of the month at each level, starting with the Triple-A Portland Beavers.

Position Players - CF/RF Ben Johnson and 2B Josh Barfield

The Wonder Twins put together the type of month that people in the Padres organization had been predicting since the beginning of spring training. After starting out hitting .222 for April, Johnson,24, improved his average to .294 in May and then really caught fire in June hitting .366 with 7 doubles, 9 home runs and 24 RBIs for the month. As Padres Director of Player Development Tye Waller told Madfriars.com earlier, its all about getting Johnson to relax and trust his ability.

Johnson who put together a good season in Mobile, followed by strong performances in the Arizona Fall League and spring training, further increased his value by demonstrating an ability to play center field. Johnson's versatility along with his hot performance this past month earned him a trip to San Diego at the end of the month. Although Johnson should be back in Portland as more of the injured Padres come off of the disabled list, his ability to play center field and hit for average and power has opened a lot of eyes. A classic five tool player, Johnson should push hard for a spot on the Padres in 2006 and has established himself as the Padres top outfield prospect.

Josh Barfield,23, put together a month which was reminiscent of his season in 2003 in Lake Elsinore, when Josh was predicted a middle of the order hitter for the Padres in 2006. That year Josh not only hit for average .337, but posted a .530 slugging percentage and had 128 RBIs in 134 games.

This June Barfield posted similar numbers a .333 batting average, .477 slugging percentage, with 4 doubles and 4 home runs. Josh has always had the ability to drive in runs and hit .316 with runners in scoring position and .290 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

With utility infielders Geoff Blum, Eric Young and Damian Jackson, Barfield isn't really a candidate to be called up, and the Padres appear committed to giving him a full year at AAA. The real question will be what will happen if Barfield has the type of season in Portland in 2005 that he did in Lake Elsinore in 2003? So far, he seems like he is on track.

Pitcher - Chris Oxpring (RHP)

Justin Germano is better known, Chris Hensley has better overall statistics, but Australian Chris Oxpring had the best June.

In June Oxpring, 28, went 4-1 with a 2.28 ERA, and held batters to a .228 batting average. A quick look at his peripheral statistics, base-on-balls to strikeouts (39/10), a WHIP of 1.02 and only allowing 11 earned runs gave an indication of why Oxpring won four out of his six starts.

The problem with Chris has been an overall lack of consistency. In April and May he posted ERA's of over 5.50 and in his first start in July he only lasted 2 innings while giving up 9 runs. If he can repeat his performance in June, Oxpring could be a good long man/spot starter out of the bullpen. However, that is a big if.

The most consistent of the Portland pitchers has been right handed pitcher Clay Hensley, 26, whom the Padres acquired in the Matt Hedges trade with the Giants in 2003. Hensley, has flown under the radar of nearly everyone this year at Portland despite being a PCL all star. Although he has a rather unimpressive record of 1-2, he has the best overall strikeout to base-on-balls ratio of any Portland starter (61/19), but his best feature is his hits (55) to innings pitched (76.1). Hensley right now may be the Padres best option if they need a spot starter from the minor leagues.

Brad Baker, 24, the top ranked relief prospect in the organization, continues to improve after a rough start, lowering his ERA this month to 3.14, after posting a 5.65 ERA in May and a 7.27 ERA in April. Baker has still been a little too hittable, 14 hits in 14 innings pitched and his control isn't quite where it was last year, he has nearly walked as many people in half as many games in Portland as he did all last year in Mobile, but the progress is encouraging.

Commentary - With the Seattle Mariners in town in late June, much speculation centered on whether or not the Padres and Mariners were discussing a trade for second baseman Brett Boone. However, the Mariners and Padres both share the same training facility in Peoria Arizona and know each others minor league players as well as their own, a trade involving players in both organizations could be on the horizon.

Major league veteran Adam Hydzu who put together a strong June in Portland, but at 33 is seemingly shut out of any roster spots in San Diego could be an attractive option for a team seeking a backup outfielder who can play all three positions. Additionally, the Padres may want to open an outfield spot for Paul McAnulty who impressed many in his brief time in San Diego by surrounding him with better players in Portland to get a better idea of what he can do and can‘t do with the bat. With the currently lineup in Mobile offering him little protection, look for McAnulty‘s walks to go through the roof.

Also with Mark Lorretta, Phil Nevin and Ramon Hernandez scheduled to come off of the disabled list either INF Damian Jackson, C Miguel Ojeda or maybe 3b Sean Burroughs will have to be sent down, barring a trade, to clear room on the major league roster.

Burroughs still has an option left, and according to an interview with Tom Krasovic, the beat writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Padres are considering this as a viable option. If Burroughs does return to Portland, look for struggling shortstop Jesse Garcia (.188) to be moved or released to allow JJ Furmaniak (.267) to play SS on an everyday basis. With Blum, Jackson and Eric Young all able to fill the utility infield positions, its difficult to see where Garcia fits in at San Diego.

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