At first, it was easy for Josh Barfield. Son of a big leaguer, a breeze through the minors, and an excellent first year in the majors made it seem as though stardom was within reach.
Barfield came into the league a highly touted prospect with the San Diego Padres organization. The progeny of former masher Jesse Barfield, Josh was a fourth round pick in the 2001 draft and was named the number one prospect for the Padres by Baseball America in both 2004 and 2005. He lived up to the high draft position and hype with a solid rookie season.
In 2006, Barfield hit .280 with 21 steals and 13 home runs, flashing a nice display of speed and power, with the ability to hit for average. After a fine rookie campaign with the Padres, Barfield was dealt to the Cleveland Indians for another highly ranked prospect; third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.
The deal proved to be a career-changing move for Barfield as he struggled mightily in Cleveland. In ’07, he began the year as the lead dog at second base, but lost his starting position to Asdrubal Cabrera. He never regained it.
After spending most of 2008 and 2009 at Triple-A Buffalo, Barfield went back to the Padres last year, but did not stick.
He now finds himself in an unusual situation. With a utility role potentially up for grabs at the major league level (at least for the time being with Chase Utley sidelined) Barfield is trying to prove he belongs.
“Barfield has definitely hit,” Manager Charlie Manuel said today, after his latest solid performance. “He’s caught my eye some.”
Manuel also thinks Barfield may have been caught in a rough situation with two underachieving organizations. When you’re on a losing team, and things go bad, they look for something to do. They’ll start trying things,” He said. “A lot of times, that’s why they stay under .500 for a long time.”
With competition like Delwyn Young also standing out, Barfield is behind the eight ball. The old adage is you can never have too much pitching, but we’re starting to learn that you can never have too many working infielders – last year taught us that, this spring reaffirms it.
On Sunday, Barfield started at third base against the Twins in Ft. Myers and batted at the top of the order. Once again, he did not disappoint, going 2-for-4 with a double, a run, and an RBI. He’s now 9-for-19 this spring at the plate, while playing solid defense at second base, and today, third base.
“I came in and feel good. I’m having good at-bats,” said Barfield. “Hopefully I can carry that on through the rest of the spring.”
Odds are, Barfield will start the season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, if anywhere. But he’s certainly making the Phillies decision-makers think about it.