Last year, Huffman destroyed the Northwest League, hitting .343/.439/.576 for Eugene. The Padres skipped the left fielder to Lake Elsinore, where he hit .307/.402/.522 before being promoted to San Antonio in mid-season. Huffman started out slowly, but picked it up with 22 RBIs in 31 games for the Missions in August.
The converted college infielder is potentially the big right-handed bat that the team has been seeking for the outfield corners in San Diego. He's still about a year away, but his combination of power and patience makes him one of the better prospects, and possibly the best outfield prospect, in San Diego's system.
Being in Double-A in your second season of professional baseball is a pretty big jump. What is the reason behind your success?
Chad Huffman: I have no idea, really none. It's a tough question to answer. I guess it's really just trying to do the same thing I've always done since I've been playing baseball, just trying to see pitches. Swing at my pitches, fastballs that I can drive – so I've tried to stick with that plan.
Earlier in the season we had an opportunity to speak with Grady Fuson who said one of the reasons players like yourself and Matt Antonelli were advancing in the system so quickly is that you've bought into what the Padres are trying to do at the plate. Have you always been that type of hitter or is it something that you have developed since being in the organization?
Chad Huffman: No doubt about it, I think it's a recipe for success. Obviously he drafted us, so he could see that was the approach we took in college – but I think we've even become more focused on waiting for our pitch since we've come into the system. Swinging at our pitches, not trying to swing at the low and away strike.
In college you played second, third and a little bit of first. Since you've been drafted by the Padres you've been in left field. How has that been working for you?
Chad Huffman: I feel like I've really improved since day one. My approach was to let them teach me everything there is to know about the outfield. I've learned a lot from Gamby [Tom Gamboa, the Padres' roving outfield instructor] and Doug [Dascenzo] in Eugene. Just trying to get reads off of the bat, so the more games that I play out there the more comfortable I'm getting.
All of the games that you've played for the Padres have been in left field. As a former college quarterback you have a strong arm, have you asked about trying to get some time in right field or even back in the infield? I'm asking because the more positions that you can play, the better shot you have of making it to the majors.
Chad Huffman: I haven't really thought about it. They've been putting me in the lineup everyday and where they put me I'll play. I wouldn't be opposed to it, but right now I'm just focusing on left.
When I talk to people like yourself who play at the corners or first base, I always ask how you balance your power approach with hitting for average. You guys always say that when you're trying to hit for too much power you screw up your swing.
Chad Huffman: The thing with me is that home runs are always at the back of your mind, but if I try too hard I end up popping it up to center field. But if I concentrate on staying on top of the ball, getting a little more backspin it will go. Home runs just happen. I really just try to hit the ball hard.
You've risen pretty quickly from the Northwest League to the Cal League to here, and been pretty productive at all three stops? Have you noticed much of a change between the leagues?
Chad Huffman: You're going to get your fastballs no matter what league you are in. The key is just getting the one that you like and not missing that pitch. You're not going to get many second chances, so you can't miss your pitch.
Is being a pro player a little easier than what you went through in college? You were playing two sports, classes – while here it's just show up and play baseball.
Chad Huffman: Definitely. I've become a much better overall baseball player since I've quit football. Playing every day helps out too, compared to college. You get in a groove and it carries over. In college you play Tuesday and then you have to wait four days.
We were a little surprised you weren't on the AFL squad. Are you planning on playing winter ball anywhere?
Chad Huffman: No, but if something comes up, that would be fine. Right now I'm re-enrolled back at TCU.
What is the thing you need to work on besides being more consistent to make it to the majors?
Chad Huffman: Umm, be more consistent.
I always try to take that answer away from you guys..
Chad Huffman: [laughs] Well you know it's the truth, just get better at all aspects of the game. I found that in my life, every time I think I'm good at something it's come back to bite me. You never can sit on something and be satisfied, you always have to keep working on getting better.
Once you take it for granted, it gets you.