Minor League Transactions: April 17-23
A minor league veteran breaks through to make the majors with the Diamondbacks after 10 years in the minors, while the Cardinals lose another top pitching prospect to the disabled […]
D'backs roll dice with Stephen Drew
by Jerry Crasnick
PHILADELPHIA--David and Libby Drew of Hahira, Ga., should be proud of the contribution they've made to professional baseball with their three sons. First came J.D. and then Tim, a pitcher drafted in the first round by the Indians in 1997. Lee MacPhail, former Indians scouting director, once called Tim a "throwback" with an "old-fashioned bulldog approach."
That description will never be applied to J.D. or his brother Stephen, the baby of the Drew crew. While Tim is naturally gregarious and more citified, J.D. and Stephen are small-town, huntin' and fishin' types by nature. They're perfectly happy bonding in a duck blind together, even if relatively few words pass between them.
From his seat in the Braves' clubhouse, J.D. surmises that asking a Drew to put on a hyper-aggressive façade is like asking a slow guy to run fast.
"You have guys in a clubhouse who are 'rah rah, in your face,' because that's their personality," J.D. said. "And some people have personalities that are really laid back. I'm that way. I was brought up in a South Georgia environment where we worked on the farm. We had close-knit relationships with our uncles and cousins, and close friendships with the people that we knew. I think that's the way Stephen is."
David Jonathan "J.D." Drew brought a lot of attention on himself coming out of Florida State seven years ago. He used Scott Boras as his agent, embraced the Boras "special player" tag, signed with the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League and spurned the Phillies with a year-long holdout before re-entering the draft and signing an $8.5 million deal with the Cardinals in 1998.
After five full seasons in the majors, J.D. is in many ways still a victim of his own hype. Stephen followed his older brother to Tallahassee. Now, barring a negotiating disaster, he's bound for Arizona.
Mike Rizzo, Diamondbacks scouting director, heard all the knocks against Stephen Drew entering the June 7 draft: The kid lacked emotional fire, it was said. He wouldn't play with a hangnail. He didn't show up for the Cape Cod League last summer, where scouts could have seen him with a wood bat in his hands.
In summary, Stephen showed all the negative attributes frequently ascribed to his older brother.
"He scares the daylights out of me," a National League executive said before the draft. "Low gear. No real passion. No bounce to him. That has to be a concern, if I see the same mannerisms as the older brother and I hear the whispers of people around the program."
Rizzo scouted Stephen in high school and several times this year at FSU, and came away with the opposite impression. He saw Stephen slide hard into second base to break up a double play. And while the kid wasn't a helmet-smasher, he did bat .344-17-56 for the Seminoles with a .692 slugging percentage, more walks (45) than strikeouts (44), and 12 steals in 14 attempts. Shouldn't production speak for itself?
Rizzo saw Stephen flash enough physical tools at shortstop to remind him of Dick Schofield, a 13-year big leaguer who made all the routine plays. He also saw a player with the best instincts he'd seen for a collegian in 18 years of scouting.
Cutoffs. Relays. Baserunning. Every time Rizzo looked up, Stephen Drew was standing in the right place.
"We heard all the rumblings, all the rumors," Rizzo said. "We heard, 'He's a Bible reader in the clubhouse,' or, 'He only plays when he wants to.' To me, those people were looking for excuses not to take him. We were looking for an excuse to take him."
In the end, the Diamondbacks didn't have much choice. Stephen Drew fell to the 15th spot in the draft--Arizona's spot--because his price tag appeared high enough for almost half the teams in baseball to pass.
More Than Slot Money
Stephen Drew wasn't alone. Jered Weaver, long reputed to be the Padres' sure No. 1 pick, went to the Angels as the 12th selection overall. He, too, is represented by Boras.
Rizzo, who's done a nice job stocking Arizona's farm system with prospects, has negotiated every Diamondbacks amateur draft contract since 1999 and figures that streak will remain intact. He's done deals with Boras for Casey Daigle and Mike Gosling in recent years, so he knows the drill.
News flash: Don't expect to hear the words Stephen Drew and "slot money" in the same sentence this summer.
"Scott's a very good agent, and I respect him and what he does for his clients," Rizzo said. "There are certain players that Scott says are special, and I say, 'Scott, he's not special,' and I pass on them. And there are certain guys he says are special who drop accordingly. We have no preconceived notion that Stephen Drew will get a little bit more than the 16th player picked and a little bit less than the 14th player."
The standard line on Stephen is that he's a more athletic version of Todd Walker, and might be best suited to second base or the outfield. But the Diamondbacks plan to keep him at short, even though they have Alex Cintron in the big leagues and Sergio Santos tearing it up in the Texas League.
Stephen is unfazed by the prospect of entering a major league clubhouse because he has first-hand experience. When J.D. was with the Cardinals, manager Tony La Russa gave his blessing for Stephen to hang around the team and work with Jose Oquendo on the art of middle infield play.
Sometimes, in recent years, J.D. Drew spoke on the phone with his little brother and was shocked by the kid's knowledge of the game. Even though the brothers are seven years apart, their swings and on-field mannerisms are eerily similar. But J.D. concedes that Stephen is much more baseball savvy.
Still, J.D.'s protective side comes out in discussing his brother's reputation. After a recent story characterized Stephen as a mystery man who keeps a distance from his FSU teammates, J.D. wondered if the writer was talking about the Stephen Drew he knows.
"I've read some of it and I think it's far-fetched," J.D. said. "Stephen's a good kid with a big heart. He loves his teammates and everybody gets along with him. If you're shy and to yourself, people take that as 'he's real conceited and arrogant.' But that's not the case at all. If you've been shy your whole life and you're suddenly introduced to a world like this, it kind of blows your mind."
Choosing Scott Boras to represent you and driving a hard bargain isn't exactly a way to fly beneath the radar. The Diamondbacks will show Stephen Drew their definition of "special" by the size of his signing bonus, but he'll ultimately have to prove his worth on the field. That's precisely the way it should be.