Tucson Player of the Month--August

Tucson Player of the Month--August

Those of you waiting for our last Power Rankings of the season will have to wait just a little longer. Wednesday morning, at the end of the minor league season, we will have the final PR of 2005. For now we begin our final monthly awards, starting at the top, in Triple-A Tucson. Green, Villarreal, Hill and Bruney got promoted, but who was truly the best of August in Tucson.

Pitcher--Edgar Gonzalez

As pitchers jockeyed for a chance to move back to the big league club Gonzalez quietly made the strongest case for a recall.  In August he was 3-1 in six games, and while only four were technically starts, in the other two outings Gonzalez was essentially the starter, simply allowing Brandon Lyon and Oscar Villarreal to get their rehab work in.  Gonzalez rarely faltered.  In his lone August loss Gonzalez allowed only four earned runs in eight innings pitched, and with all the jumbling and confusion in a bullpen that featured 16 relievers last month he was a rock in the starting rotation, averaging just short of seven innings an outing, even with the two 'relief' appearances. 

Though he's had his problems in the big leagues, Gonzalez has dominated the Pacific Coast League this season, going 11-5 with an ERA of 4.44.  He's been doing what the Diamondbacks have asked, pitching to contact instead of trying to strike everybody out, and it has resulted in more hits than Gonzalez is typically giving up (he allowed 45 hits in 39 innings pitched in August), but progress is progress, and Gonzalez's strong finish will set him up for another run at the Diamondbacks starting rotation in 2006.

Position Player--Brian Barden

Carlos Quentin and Andy Green had typically productive months, with Quentin hitting .333 with one home run, 13 RBI and 19 runs scored and Green going for .318/2/12/24, but Barden stood out for his all around success in August.  He hit .291 with team highs for the month in both homers (4) and RBI (24).  His 34 hits were second only to Green's 35, and while the power came at a price, his 24 Ks in August was by far his worst month of the season, he hit primarily out of the #5 spot in the order, charged with protecting both Quentin and Jesus Cota, and made teams pay if they chose to pitch around the more traditional power threat.

The power numbers might also come out of the knowledge that at third base, power is expected.  Barden has set career highs in home runs and RBI this season, and that extra production add to a defensive reputation second to none.

"This kid makes every play, even the ones he shouldn't be able to make," Sidewinders manager Chip Hale said of Barden, "it's really amazing to watch him play third base, you just don't see guys this good very often."

Barden has seen time at second base this season as well as third, further adding value to a prospect whose chances were probably hurt more than any other by the Troy Glaus signing.  His best bet is to continue playing stellar defense around the horn, and perhaps do some work in the outfield, where his above average arm would play well, and at least in the short term focus on trying to win a utility man spot on next year's roster.

Unfortunately that might be easier said than done.  Barden would be competing not only against Green, but also Alex Cintron and Double-A prospect Dan Uggla for that spot on the roster, and all three have shown more versatility, and more power than Barden this season.  Barden's trump card would be his defense, and while he's got the range to play short, unlike the other three, he hasn't done it on a consistent enough basis to prove he's capable.

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