Name: Peter Ciofrone
DOB: September 28, 1983
Ciofrone spent the majority of the 2006 season with the Lake Elsinore Storm, missing most of May due to injury and spending two weeks in Double-A Mobile before being sent back to the California League.
His 15-game stint with Mobile wasn't fruitful – he hit just .231 in limited action.
"Ciofrone we had up in Double-A and he is a guy that can swing the bat left-handed," 2006 Mobile hitting coach Arnie Beyeler said.
Upon his return, Ciofrone's bat had to be stuck in ice water for fear it would be burned. Over his next 39 games he would hit .371, adding 46 RBIs with 15 extra base hits.
He ended the year hitting .343 with runners in scoring position in Lake Elsinore and was a terror with the bases juiced, batting .615 with 19 RBIs.
Ciofrone does crowd the plate and was plunked by 18 pitches this year and has taken a plugging 28 times over the last two seasons.
The question has never been his ability to hit. Ciofrone has a level swing and an excellent feel for the strike zone. He draws nearly as many walks as strikeouts, taking what the pitcher gives him.
"He has excelled at the plate," said Tom Gamboa, the Padres' roving outfield instructor. "He has a chance to be a pretty good hitter."
The left-handed hitter keeps his head aligned on the ball and his balance back until he puts everything smoothly into motion to get through the hitting zone.
He waits for pitches he can drive into the gaps and is a good candidate to use in hit-and-run situations. His nine sacrifice flies also meant productive outs and sacrificing an out for the run.
But can he produce enough power to be a threat beyond the minor league game. Ciofrone will note that he does drive in runs but just 26.2 percent of his hits went for extra bases and he has never hit more than the eight homers he hit this year.
Is there a measure of power in his game? It is a burning question that will haunt him in the coming year.
"He can hit," 2006 Lake Elsinore hitting coach Tom Tornicasa said. "I had him in Fort Wayne and he hit. Everywhere he has been he has hit. With Pete, I don't do very much with him. I just keep him slow – make sure his approach is short and slow. That is about it. Let him go about his business most of the time."
Ironically, Ciofrone would be a plus hitter if he was still at second base but the Padres felt he lacked the range to play the position effectively.
Ciofrone was sent out to the Hawaiian Baseball League and played in 20 games. He tweaked his swing slightly to attempt to add some lift but batted just .208 and struck out 22 times to just six walks in an effort to be more aggressive with the stick.
The other issue was on the defensive side of the ball. Ciofrone came into the year without a position, splitting time between second base and third base on the infield. This year, the 23-year-old moved to left field.
Things were quite interesting at first. He would misjudge balls and couldn't seem to get a good break when the nugget dropped in front of him. But he made tremendous progress through the year. It definitely helped to have Yordany Ramirez, the best defensive fielder in the system, playing centerfield, but Ciofrone's confidence rose as he gained experience.
"Peter has done very well this year," Gamboa said. "For a guy that – and this being my first year here but I was told we got him from the Red Sox and he is a guy that has moved around and never really found a home at any one position. This year he has found a home in left field. Although running isn't one of Pete's assets so he has to enhance what range he does have by getting good jumps off the balls off the bat but he has played very well for us in the outfield. He catches what he gets to."
He began to charge balls and come up throwing and made better reads off the bat, taking proper angles to the ball – tossing out three runners. He remains a work in progress but the 54-game audition proved he is capable. He committed just one error but his range is lacking due to a lack of first-step quickness.
"Peter Ciofrone – I love this guy," said Ramirez. "It is his first time playing in left field. He will be good because he has a lot of talent."
"He has played well in the outfield," said Padres' minor league field coordinator Bill Bryk.
"He played right field and made a couple of nice plays out there and cut off some balls," added Beyeler.
ETA: Ciofrone will begin the year in Double-A San Antonio. His season will be defined by his ability to consistently hit the gaps and take a few more balls out of the yard. He has been a consistent run producer in the past but the lack of homers is a deterrent in the eyes of many scouts. There are few who doubt he can hit for average but that is no longer enough in today's game. With his versatility stunted on the infield, his bat will define where he ends up.