PHOENIX–In his final game with the independent Camden Riversharks
on May 30, Stephen Drew hit a mammoth grand slam home run in the third
inning that cleared the 30-foot high right-field bleachers in
Lancaster, Pa., before bouncing to a stop against a red brick building
behind the sparkling new park.
In the previous inning, Drew went deep into the hole at shortstop to
field a ground ball headed toward left field and turned it into a close
play at first base, likely an out had a major leaguer been on the other
end of the throw.
That night, Drew signed a five-year major league contract with
Arizona worth $5.5 million, with a $4 million signing bonus, beating
the clock before he’™d have to re-enter the draft by five minutes.
Incentives make the contract top out at $7.5 million, and the 2004
first-round pick out of Florida State can opt out if he is arbitration
eligible after the fourth year.
For a player with a target on his back this season, Drew has managed to dodge the slings and arrows.
Drew was the high Class A California League player of the week three
times during his six healthy weeks at Lancaster, and after a
injury-induced blip after a promotion to Double-A Tennessee, he
continued his productive work for Phoenix of the Arizona Fall League,
where he had a home run on Opening Day and three homers in his first
“There is so much pressure on him,” Diamondbacks scouting director
Mike Rizzo said while watching Drew in the first week of the Fall
League. “It was a long year for him. It was a very stressful, emotional
six months. I know how emotional and stressed I was, and I was just
negotiating. I wasn’t playing. He was playing through that roller
“Everyone knows who he is. Everyone knows who his brother (Dodgers
outfielder J.D. Drew) is. They want him. Every pitcher bears down on
him when they face him. Everybody wants to get a notch on his belt. ‘He
was 0 for 2 against me.’
“He’s got his head on straight. He’s a level-headed kid. He’s not
bothered by anything. He’s not going to be one of those wide-eyed kids.
He’s going to fit in the Fall League, just like he’s going to fit into
the major leagues some day.”
Dispatched to Lancaster two weeks after signing, Drew hit .389-10-39
with 26 walks, his on-base (.486) and slugging (.738) percentages off
the charts. He missed time because of a hamstring injury, then was
sidelined because of the same problem after being sent to Tennessee to
replace the injured Jerry Gil.
Drew endured a 1-for-20 stretch with the Smokies but finished
.218-4-13, making his cumulative numbers .320-14-52 in about two months
of active duty.
“One of the essential things about him is, he knows the pitches he
can handle and the ones he can’t,” Rizzo said. “Even if they (ones he
does not like) are in the strike zone he will not offer, unless he is
behind in the count.
“He’s got power. He can hit for average. He’s got instincts. He has
all the defensive tools to play an outstanding shortstop. He is one of
the most instinctual players for his age that I’ve ever seen. He is
always in the right place, and that is something you can’t teach.”
Some scouts believe Drew might be only a half-year away from the
major leagues, but the Diamondbacks are planning to proceed cautiously.
“We’ve got five weeks to check him out in the Fall League right in
our backyard,” Rizzo said. “We’ll see how he plays. We’re going to do
what is best for Stephen Drew and what is best for the Diamondbacks.
We’ll let his ability dictate where he will play” in 2006.
A few criticized Drew’s seemingly laid-back style while at Florida
State, but Rizzo said he has seen none of that. Quite the opposite.
Drew begged his way into the lineup despite his injuries this summer
after being asked if he needed time off.
“He cares, and he wants to help his team win,” Rizzo said. “You see
him go hard into second base, hard and clean. He is not going to swear
at the umpire or throw his helmet, but it’s there. He is going to take
his 0-for-4s and his 4-for-4s the same way, and you have to do that in
the big leagues.”
• AFL rosters continued to shuffle. The Royals pulled first baseman Justin Huber
out of the league and had yet to name a replacement, while the Pirates
removed righthander Ian Snell and replaced him with lefthander Mike Connolly.
• Surprise shortstop Brandon Wood (Angels), the only prospect
ranked higher than Drew in the Cal League after a monster offensive
season at Rancho Cucamonga, homered on Opening Day Oct. 4 and had three
home runs in his first four games. A first-round pick in 2003, Wood hit
.321-43-115 with 51 doubles and a .672 slugging percentage at Rancho.
His Surprise and Rancho Cucamonga teammate, second baseman Howie Kendrick, was 3 for 5 in the first two games of the season and had a two-hit game in the fourth.
• Mesa catcher Justin Knoedler and right fielder Dan Ortmeier,
who started the regular-season finale for the parent Giants against the
Diamondbacks, each homered on Opening Day. Ortmeier also stole a base,
as he did in the final game of the major league season.
• A pair of touted third basemen got off to strong starts. The Javelinas’™ Ian Stewart (Rockies) had two homers and nine RBIs in the first three games of the season. Grand Canyon’™s Eric Duncan (Yankees) had a two-homer game Oct. 8, driving in four, a day after a four-hit game.
• Surprise righthander Jered Weaver (Angels), who signed for
a $4 million bonus at the same time Drew did on May 30, struck out six
of the seven batters he faced in his first appearance Oct. 5, giving up