Padres Prospects: July Players of the Month

July saw some obscene numbers being put up by many San Diego Padres prospects. John Conniff sorts through the rubble to find a Player of the Month among each affiliate and the big winner for the month.

Portland Beavers
Peter Ciofrone
Position: 3B/LF/RF

Ciofrone, 24, has always been regarded as having one of the best eyes in the Padres' organization; the downside was where would he fit in defensively and if he had enough power to play the corner outfield positions or third base. This year, he began as a utility infielder in San Antonio, was promoted in early May to Portland and since then has been one of the better players in the organization this year. He's mainly played third base and the left-handed hitting Ciofrone has been turning on more balls than ever before with his slugging percentage nearly two hundred points over his career numbers.

"I am not going to change my swing to hit home runs," Ciofrone said. "I am not a big guy. I am trying to go up there and hit the gaps. I am going to run into a few here and there. I am more of an average guy with RBIs."

Although he received well-deserved publicity for his 27-game hitting streak, his numbers in July were amazing. He had nearly as many extra-base hits, 12, as he did strikeouts, 15. His BB/K ratio was 14/15, and he led the Beavers in hits and RBIs and only made a single error in the field.

It's easily been his most impressive month in five years in the Padres organization, and he may have earned himself a September call-up, something that would have been inconceivable just a few months ago.

Prospect Watch: Most players when they are sent down from the majors suffer some sort disappointment, which is reflected in their performance, but Paul McAnulty didn't. Instead, he seems to be on a mission to prove that the Padres made a mistake, and if he doesn't belong with them, then he belongs somewhere else in the majors. P-Mac hit .409/.481/.727 and nearly led the Beavers in home runs and RBIs despite joining the team on May 10. Will Venable again played every day in center and had his best month for patience and power, hitting .277/.374/.536 while leading Portland in home runs with six, base-on-balls (17) and extra base hits with 16.

Disappointments: With Nick Hundley and Luke Carlin in the majors for most of the month, Colt Morton failed to take advantage of a big opportunity, hitting only .128/.196/.298.

San Antonio Missions
Kyle Blanks
Position: 1B

Blanks had his second consecutive month where he posted a .500+ slugging percentage and at only 21 is having a very good Double-A season. He tied for the team lead in hits with 31, led with extra base hits, 13, and RBIs with 26. His only real negative was a 5/26 BB/K ratio but that is nitpicking.

"I am just trying to shorten everything up and keep everything compact," Blanks said. "I do think I missed some that I should have gotten to, but I also think I hit more harder than I ever have."

Prospect Watch: Centerfielder Drew Macias continues to play well, hitting .307/.408/.366 and is second in the Texas League in walks. Macias isn't hitting with much power but is a plus defender, and if he can continue to hit and get on base, that should be enough to have him play centerfield for someone at a higher level. Outfielders Craig Cooper, .281/.366/. 461 and Chad Huffman .278/.383/.456 also turned in solid performances this month.

Disappointments: Third baseman Seth Johnston showed some pop this month with four home runs but failed to make enough consistent contact with a .218/.284/.414 line, striking out 22 times in 93 plate appearances to go along with team high seven errors.

Lake Elsinore Storm
Kellen Kulbacki
Position: RF

This month, Kulbacki hit eight home runs to give him the organizational lead with 20 home runs and this is after he missed most of April and had a forgettable May. For the second straight month, he posted a slugging percentage only a few points under .700, and since June 1, he's only struck out 33 times in 221 plate appearances.

"My swing feels comfortable," Kulbacki said. "I am relaxed and loose at the plate. It feels good. It is coming to the point where I can focus less on mechanics and focus more on the situations and hitting the ball and not worrying so much about what I am doing up at the plate when I swing."

Prospect Watch: Centerfielder Cedric Hunter, 20, continues to hit for average and get on base, .355/.377/.488, and has been showing an ability to hit the ball into the gap with a team leading nine doubles. Now, if we can only get him to steal a few more bases [3 in 5 attempts]. Third baseman Brian Joynt is making the most of Rayner Contreras absence, hitting .323/.413/.516. 1B/OF Sam Carter, .295/.409/.474, and 1B Jeremy Hunt, .293/.348/.476 continue to make the most of limited opportunities.

Disappointments: Second baseman Eric Sogard continues his monthly yo-yo performance, .386, .243, .333 and this month .243.

Fort Wayne Wizards
Lance Zawadzki
Position: SS

After a slow start, shortstop Zawadzki has really been coming on. The switch-hitting former SDSU product (although his final year was spent at Lee College in Tennessee) had his best month, leading Fort Wayne in batting average, hits, and extra-base hits and was a perfect 8-for-8 in stolen bases. Currently, he's second in the organization with 23 stolen bases for the season. The only negative was a team high 11 errors.

"My first 150 at-bats I really struggled here and was just trying to do too much," Zawadzki said. "I spent a lot of hours with Tom Tornicasa our hitting coach getting here early and staying late just trying to work out and get back on track." Prospect Watch: Brad Chalk plays one of the better centerfields in the organization and has a good eye at the plate, but a big question is if he can hit for enough power at higher levels. This month he may have begun to address this concern, as he had more extra base hits (11) than in his previous three months. Last year's Northwest League batting champ, Luis Durango, continues to hit with a .384/.436/.465 line. Felix Carrasco posted a good OBP at .374, leading the Wizards in walks with 15, but the organization expects more than a .355 slugging percentage and two home runs from the big first baseman.

Disappointments: A tough month for outfielder Robert Perry after a big month in June. Perry hit .189/.297/.326.

Eugene Emeralds
Sawyer Carroll
Position: RF

With many of the Padres' top draft picks either unsigned or injured, Carroll, a third-round supplemental pick out of the University of Kentucky, has picked up the slack. Carroll led the team in extra-base hits, walks and RBIs. Carroll had a 17/25 BB/K ratio and is hitting .342 with runners in scoring position.

"One of the adjustments I made to improve upon my power numbers was to be a little bit more aggressive," Carroll said. "I have always been a guy that took a lot of pitches and has been able to hit well with two strikes."

Prospect Watch: Oregon State product Dan Robertson, a 33rd-round selection is another player that is making the most of the late arrival of many Padres' 2008 picks. The leadoff hitter led the team in stolen bases with 11 and posted an excellent 14/10 BB/K ratio. Also, he showed he could come through with the pressure on, hitting .429 with runners on and with two outs. Centerfielder Blake Tekotte from the University of Miami joined the team midway through July and put up some good numbers with a .284/.360/.433 line taking over in center. Shortstop Cole Figueroa and first baseman Mathew Clark joined the Ems late in July and should provide some offense next month.

Disappointments: Shortstop Jeudy Valdez put up some good numbers in Arizona last year but so far has struggled in the Northwest League at .213/.318/.383.

Arizona Rookie League Padres
Jaff Decker
Position: LF/CF/RF

Right now, Decker is the star of the 2008 draft. Despite being known as an organization that doesn't go into the high school ranks, the Padres have had some success with high school players in the past three drafts, Cedric Hunter, Drew Cumberland and now Jaff Decker. All tare different players with diverse skill sets, but all of them begin with an ability to control the strike zone, as evidenced by their high on-base percentages.

"I think hitting is the best part of my game," said Decker. "It is something I can do and feel comfortable with. I believe every time I step up to the plate I can get a hit."

Decker had a ridiculous 26/13 BB/K ratio and seven of his 24 hits went for extra bases. Defensively, he has a strong arm, throwing a no-hitter in high school with a low-90s fastball. The Padres are playing the left-handed Decker at all three outfield positions, but so far he's seen the most time in center.

Prospect Watch: Catcher Robert Lara was known for his defense in his first two years at LSU but his last year at University of Central Florida he picked it up with a .312/.431/.414 line and its carried over to the pros. In July, he hit .366/.516/.493 with a 19/9 BB/K ratio and is leading the organization in average at .383. Outfielder Jason Codiroli, drafted in the 20th-round out of West Valley JC, put up some very good numbers with a .363/.480/.463 line and an excellent 16/15 BB/K ratio.

Disappointments: At 23, outfielder Chase Williams should be putting up some better numbers than a .161/.270/.230 line.

DSL Padres
Jorge Minyeti
Position: 2B

Minyeti outpaced the competition by a considerable margin in July, hitting .409 to lead the entire Dominican Summer League. He was also the lone player on the roster to walk more times [15] than he struck out [6]. The infielder has 11 multi-hit games in 20 overall.

Seven of his 27 hits went for extra bases in July and Minyeti has posted a 39-to-27 BB-to-K ration on the season. The one area he needs to improve is in his stolen base efficiency, going 6-for-11.

Prospect Watch: Jhonaldo Pozo led the squad with 17 RBIs in 22 games and sported a solid .289 average. Twelve of his RBIs this year have come with the bases loaded where he has had six at-bats.

Disappointments: Jonathan Galvez had a tremendous June but hit .157 while leading the team in at-bats this past month. The talented shortstop did draw 20 walks to sport an acceptable .327 on-base percentage. Rymer Liriano hit .163 and struck out 39 times in 80 at-bats but did pace the club with three homers. Miguel Tiburcio struck out in exactly half of his 72 at-bats.

Player of the Month: Kellen Kulbacki

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