After my recent post on George Kottaras and the potential for him breaking camp with the Red Sox in 2009, I got to thinking about Josh Barfield.
His rise and fall is well documented. With the Padres in 2006, he was a legitimate candidate for NL Rookie of the Year. His numbers were pretty solid. Over 150 games, Barfield hit .280 with 151 hits, 13 home runs and 58 runs batted in. He also swiped 21 bases.
The offseason saw the Padres trade Barfield to the Indians for Kevin Kouzmanoff and Andrew Brown (who is now with Oakland) to fill a void at third base when the Sean Burroughs experience didn’t pan out the way they had planned. That’s when things went south for Barfield.
His 2007 production was lackluster at best. Over 130 games, Barfield hit.243 with three home runs and 50 RBIs. Rookie, Asdrubal Cabrera came out of nowhere to take advantage of the situation and wrestle away the starting gig at second base. His performance is one that often receives credit as a big reason the Tribe was able to launch into the playoffs and narrowly miss going to the World Series.
As one might expect, Cabrera entered Spring Training as the incumbent second baseman and began the 2008 season in that role. Barfield began the 2008 season at Triple-A Buffalo. His numbers were nothing to write home about, hitting .253 with 75 hits and 23 runs batted in over 299 at-bats. He struck out 58 teams.
But fortunately for Barfield, Cabrera offered a dismal performance that was reminiscent of Barfield’s 2007. It gave Barfield another shot. Though he went 0-6 during that stint, he might have had a good shot had he not gotten injured. He underwent surgery to repair an injured ligament on the left middle finger and missed several weeks.
By the time Barfield had recovered, Eric Wedge and the Indians had moved on and the season was more or less lost. Jamey Carroll held down most of the second base duties during that time, but didn’t really show any indication that he had locked up the role. That may have provided Barfield with yet another opportunity to regain his promise.
On the season, Barfield had little opportunity to impress at the MLB level and continues to show a high strikeout propensity (10 in 33 at bats). He hit just .182 during the combined stints. But reportedly, Barfield did make an impression and should get a legitimate shot at reclaiming his position unless there happens to be an acquisition of an established veteran. In all likelihood, the battle will come down to Barfield, Cabrera, Carroll and rookie Luis Valbuena, who hit .245 in 18 games last season.
Methinks there’s an very outside shot that Barfield could regain the role he lost nearly two years ago. Though, I might be a bit more on the hopeful side than most. As I often do with former Wizards players, as I researched this post, I did an environmental scan of news stories and blog posts. Many have already written Barfield out of the future plans not only for the Indians, but every team in Major League Baseball.
The DiaTribe suggests:
As 2009 looms, the decline of Barfield from being an up-and-coming steady MLB contributor at the age of 23 to a player that isn’t likely to factor into the Indians’ 2009 plans as a 26-year-old is nearly complete.
Sheldon Ocker of Ohio.com predicts that…
Jhonny Peralta probably will move from short to third – a move I don’t like – Asdrubal Cabrera will be shifted from second to short, and manager Eric Wedge will re-introduce himself to Josh Barfield, the forgotten man. It’s also not out of the question that Shapiro will find a free-agent second baseman.
And finally, Michael Taylor provides a thorough (yet bleak) analysis for MVN:
While Kouzmanoff has lived up to his end of the trade, the son of a former home run champion has arguably become the worst position player in the American League when he has been in the lineup. Barfield’s OPS, which is on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, is under .600! That’s right, under .600!
In that segment, Taylor reviews Barfield in comparison to baseball-reference.com’s similar batters through age 25. Those batters are Russ Adams, Carlos Febles, Carlos Guillen, Pat Kelly and Michael Young. It’s an interesting mix, but I don’t recall any of those players ever emerging as the type of player who was irreplaceable for a team.
So, while the outlook is dim, it does appear that Barfield still has an opportunity to restore an unfulfilled promise. He’s still relatively young, nobody has a lock on his position at the MLB level, and he’s playing for a club that saw Cliff Lee make one of the most phenomenal “out-of-nowhere” resurgences in Major League Baseball History. So I guess anything’s possible!
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Photograph courtesy of the Fort Wayne Wizards/TinCaps