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Hairston's baseball pedigree is unquestioned. His grandfather Sammy spent most of his career in the Negro Leagues before getting five at-bats in 1951 for the White Sox, the same team for which Hairston's father Jerry played 14 seasons. His uncle John got four at-bats for the 1969 Reds. Brother Jerry Jr. took over as the Orioles' second baseman in 2001. Scott shows the potential to become the best of the lot. He won the Arizona junior college triple crown in 2001 and tied for the minor league lead with 73 extra base hits in his first full season in 2002. But like his brother, Hairston spent a significant part of 2003 on the disabled list. He pulled a muscle in his back while swinging the bat and tried to play through it. After a month of posting subpar numbers and further aggravating his back, Hairston missed six weeks. MRI exams showed nothing more than muscular damage, so the back problems aren't likely to recur. He took a month off after the regular season ended before reporting to the Arizona Fall League, where he proved there were no lingering effects by hitting .365-3-13. A majority of scouts would agree Hairston's bat is ready for the majors now and gives him all-star potential as a second baseman. He demonstrates a quiet, balanced approach at the plate and stays on top of and inside the ball well with a short, compact stroke. Hairston's excellent bat speed also allows him to generate plus power. Hairston's total package at the plate could result in Jeff Kent-like production. He runs well enough to reach double-digits in steals, but won't be the threat on the bases that his brother is. The Kent comparisons that follow Hairston are based on his offense and defense. Hairston has trouble making the pivot on double plays and isn't comfortable throwing from different angles. He has worked on his defense in the AFL the last two seasons, and while he has made progress he also boots routine plays. While Hairston's hands, range and arm are average, most scouts project his future at third base or the outfield. Hairston often is one of the first players at the ballpark, but he spends most of that extra time in the batting cage. Some in the organization wonder where he'd be defensively if he spent more time working to improve his weaknesses. Hairston isn't shy about watching home runs or aggressive in charging down the baseline on routine outs. His plate discipline slipped in 2003, but his back problems may have been a contributing factor. Even after being slowed by injury, Hairston isn't far away from challenging for a major league spot. The Diamondbacks' signing of free agent Roberto Alomar ended any chance he had of grabbing the Arizona second-base job out of spring training. So he'll begin 2004 at Triple-A Tucson and likely spend the whole year there, with a September callup possible.
Scouts viewed Santos as an elite prospect when he was a high school sophomore. His senior year didn't live up to billing, so he slipped to the 27th overall pick, where Arizona was more than happy to pay $1.4 million to keep him from attending Southern California. He earned a promotion to Double-A El Paso less than a month after his 20th birthday. Santos brings a full toolbox to the field, as well as tremendous enthusiasm and confidence. His strength and power stand out. Santos also makes adjustments at the plate. A big-bodied shortstop like Alex Rodriguez, he has a cannon arm to go with solid feet and range. Santos has made 62 errors in 11⁄2 pro seasons. His arm allows him to wait longer on balls, resulting in bad hops or rushed throws, and his hands aren't great for short. Many scouts forecast a move to third base or the outfield. He also could be more patient at the plate, which would help unleash his power potential. Santos and Arizona want him to stay at short, though his bat will play anywhere. He'll return to Double-A to start 2004.
The Diamondbacks lengthened Nippert's stride after signing him, and it helped him gain command of his power repertoire. He endured a scare during the 2003 season, when doctors found a golf-ball-sized tumor under his left armpit. It was benign and removed arthroscopically, but did cost him two months. Arizona scout Greg Lonigro signed Nippert's identical twin Derik as a 36th-rounder in 2003. Nippert pounds the strike zone with two plus pitches, a 92-96 mph fastball and a power curveball with a 12-to-6 break. He stays tall during his delivery and throws on a downhill plane, getting the most out of his 6-foot-7 frame. Nippert didn't have a third pitch until his changeup gained consistency in the Arizona Fall League. While Nippert throws plenty of strikes, he sometimes delivers too many and can leave his fastball up in the zone at times. He must learn about wasting pitches in pitcher's counts. He also needs to further integrate his changeup into his repertoire. After two strong minor league seasons and a stellar AFL, Nippert will skip a level and jump to Double-A. He has the stuff to develop into a front-of-the-rotation starter.
Tracy won the Double-A Texas League batting title with a .344 average in 2002, then led the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in hits and all minor league third basemen in batting as an encore. He's starting to remind scouts of Wade Boggs, whom Tracy had lunch with last summer while at the Futures Game. Tracy rivals Scott Hairston as the organization's best hitter. He should hit .300 in the majors because he's so quick at getting the barrel to the ball and adept at making adjustments. He hits laser-beam doubles to the gaps with regularity. A first baseman for two years in college, Tracy has made tremendous defensive strides over the last year. His footwork has improved and his arm rates average to above. Tracy never has demonstrated enough power for a corner infielder. He worked on lifting the ball better in the Dominican League this winter. He doesn't walk much because he makes contact with such ease. Before the Richie Sexson trade, Tracy had a chance to win the third-base job and keep Shea Hillenbrand at first base. Now Tracy will probably settle for a reserve job behind Hillenbrand in 2004.
Rosario is so mature and confident that some in the low Class A Midwest League questioned his age in 2003. But Arizona hired a private investigator to verify his background before signing him for $400,000. A shortstop growing up, Rosario hit 98 mph at Arizona's Dominican complex that April, prompting scouting director Mike Rizzo to set aside his predraft duties in 2002 to fly down to sign him. Rosario has the makings of three plus pitches. He throws his four-seam fastball up to 97-98 mph, and his two-seamer has more movement at 93-95. His slider and changeup are inconsistent, but could also be out pitches. He has a clean delivery and calm demeanor on the mound. The Diamondbacks don't question his durability, but are curious to see how he'll hold up after going from 77 innings in 2002 to 160 in 2003. He should miss a lot more bats than he did in the MWL. The Diamondbacks don't shy away from saying Rosario has No. 1 starter potential. He could join Dustin Nippert in a powerful Double-A rotation in 2004.
After signing for $1.5 million, Jackson set a short-season Northwest League record for doubles and led the circuit in RBIs. Arizona moved him from corner infielder to outfielder because of its infield depth. His father John plays admiral A.J. Chegwidden on TV's "JAG." Jackson is as polished as any hitter from the 2003 draft. He has a quick bat and swings only at pitches he can hit. He was called out on strikes a few times early in his pro career, and Diamondbacks officials said it was because he knew the strike zone better than the umpires. He has an average arm. Shoulder tendinitis forced Jackson to DH for most of the summer, so he's still adjusting to the outfield. He's working on reading balls and taking better routes. The Diamondbacks want Jackson to put more backspin on the ball, which they hope will add carry to take more of his doubles over the fence. He doesn't have great speed but won't clog the bases. Jackson projects as a .300 hitter with 20-30 homers a year. He likely will begin 2004 at high Class A Lancaster.
A product of San Diego's University High, where he was two years behind Mark Prior, Quentin became one of the best hitters in Stanford history. He played most of the 2003 season with a sore right elbow that required Tommy John surgery, which he had after signing for $1.1 million. He played on Team USA with Conor Jackson in 2002, and they should be reunited in Arizona's outfield of the future. With a powerful bat and arm, Quentin has classic right-field tools. He should regain his plus arm strength. He drives the ball to all fields and doesn't have to pull pitches to send them out of the park. He's a disciplined hitter who gets on base. While Quentin has a lot of juice in his bat, he needs to do a better job of translating it into homers. He went deep just 35 times in 199 college games. He'll have to rebuild his arm strength, though with his determination that shouldn't be a problem. Quentin started taking batting practice three times a week in November while finishing his political-science degree at Stanford. He'll open 2004 as a DH, probably at high Class A, and should be ready for right field in May.
Along with Sergio Santos, Bruney is one of the few high school draftees who have panned out for the Diamondbacks, who are increasingly leaning toward college selections. In November, he allowed the ninth-inning homer to Mexico's Luis Garcia that eliminated Team USA from the 2004 Olympics. Bruney's fastball and slider are plus offerings. He can put three digits on radar guns but gets better command when he throws 95-96 mph. His slider took longer to develop, but El Paso pitching coach Claude Osteen helped him turn it into a hard, 85-86 mph breaker last April. Bruney also has the perfect mentality for a closer: a burning desire to take the ball and a short memory. Bruney is a reliever because there's effort in his compact delivery and he has just a passable feel for his changeup. He throws it mainly against lefties, and it moves away from them. Bruney should earn a role in Arizona's bullpen in 2004, possibly in the eighth inning. Among their relief prospects, he's the best suited to be the long-term closer.
Gonzalez signed for $3,500 at age 17, but got homesick and left the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League before throwing an inning. He made his pro debut two years later in 2002, threw a Midwest League no-hitter in his second start, and reached the majors in June 2003. He won his major league debut against the Padres. Gonzalez is crafty, mixing four pitches while moving them all around the strike zone. He throws his fastball at 88-91 mph, keeping 94-95 in his pocket for when he needs it. He also adds and subtracts from his changeup and uses three different curveballs, each with different movement and velocity. Gonzalez doesn't have a true knockout pitch, so he doesn't always miss bats or put hitters away at key moments. While Gonzalez studies hitters, he sometimes toys with lesser threats rather than challenging them and getting rid of them quickly. A future No. 3 starter, Gonzalez spent the winter in Panama to help him prepare for a spring audition for Arizona's rotation.
Gosling fell to the second round of the 2001 draft because of his bonus demands and signed for $2 million--more than 53 of the 66 players taken ahead of him. He ranked as the No. 2 prospect and top pitcher on this list a year ago, then posted the worst ERA among Triple-A qualifiers in 2003. He tried to pitch through a small tear in his shoulder at the end of the season and had arthroscopic surgery afterward. At his best, Gosling flashes four average to above-average pitches and has solid command. He throws an 88-92 mph fastball that reaches 94, a plus curveball, a changeup and a cut fastball that he added as a pro. He showed character by working hard while battling adversity and injury. Mechanics were the biggest culprit in Gosling's struggles. He dropped his elbow and pushed his pitches, which left fastballs up in the strike zone. His durability had been questioned in the past and is an issue again following his shoulder problems. Gosling should be healthy and ready for spring training. He'll begin 2004 at Triple-A and could be one of the first arms summoned to Arizona when a need arises.
Terrero's been a tease for most of his career. He ranked No. 1 in the organization two years ago and shows flashes of all five tools, but he can't stay healthy. His thin yet sculpted physique is so tight that it constantly breaks down. He has missed time with ribcage, ankle, groin, hamstring and hamate injuries during the last three seasons, then was hospitalized in November when a blood clot led to swelling in his left arm. On the positive side, he hit for the cycle twice in 2002, then cranked a walk-off homer and three-run bomb in back-to-back major league spring training games and tied for the minor league lead in triples in 2003. Long limbs and good wheels allow Terrero to cover ground quickly in the outfield, where he also shows a plus-plus arm, and on the basepaths. He runs into a lot of outs and barely breaks even stealing bases. He's also overaggressive at the plate. He displays power to all fields, but has difficulty laying off bad pitches and racks up too many strikeouts. For all his talent, Terrero never has shown consistent production. Some fear he could turn into another Ruben Rivera. He'll get a crack at sticking with the Diamondbacks this season, and his health and ability to make adjustments will determine if he can be an everyday player or extra outfielder.
An athletic player with raw power, Kroeger turned down a football scholarship to Division II Truman State (Mo.) as a wide receiver. He advanced to high Class A as a teenager in 2002, and advanced pitchers picked him apart. He returned to Lancaster in 2003 and turned everything around. With a new sense of confidence and an extra year of developing his linebacker-like body, Kroeger started showing his above-average power. He tied for 11th in the minors with 39 doubles after hitting 44 combined in his first three seasons. His strong lefthanded swing reminds some of Dave Justice, and Diamondbacks officials believe he can produce similar numbers as a right fielder once he starts making in-game adjustments. Kroeger's above-average speed allows him to play center field if needed, and his strong arm makes him a standout in right. After leveling off after a midseason move to Double-A last year, Kroeger will head back to El Paso in 2004.
There's not a Diamondbacks prospect quicker or more athletic than Williams. He's a top-of- the-scale runner who gets to maximum speed with an explosive, two-step acceleration. A high school wide receiver recruited by Florida and Florida State, Williams chose baseball and attended North Florida before signing as a draft-and-follow. After he struggled at short-season Yakima in his pro debut, the Diamondbacks aggressively promoted him to high Class A. He met the challenge and showed offensive improvements. Built like Tim Raines, Williams has just enough pop in his bat to get him in trouble. Arizona officials want him to focus on keeping his stroke short and quick and eliminating an uppercut so he can use his feet. He must improve his plate discipline and bunting if he's to be a top-of-the-order hitter. He set a Lancaster franchise record with 57 steals in 2003 and was caught just seven times. His headfirst slides cost him a month of development as he had to sit out after getting his hand spiked during a steal attempt. He's still learning how to get jumps and read pitchers, but he often outruns pickoff attempts, pitchouts and even grounders to the right of shortstop. Williams also outruns balls in center field, showing superior range that makes up for a below-average arm. He'll work on the little ball game in Double-A this year.
D'Antona packs the best raw power in the system, and scouts don't have a problem projecting him as a 40-homer guy. He set Wake Forest's career home run mark (58) and was named Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year in 2003. The Diamondbacks thought he had more raw power than any player in the draft, and he tied for the Northwest League homer crown in his pro debut while ranking second to teammate Conor Jackson in RBIs. D'Antona's strength and bat speed are such that he doesn't need to hit the ball squarely to send it over the fence, and he shows that power to all fields. He sometimes gets into trouble by taking monstrous slow-pitch softball cuts. A shorter stroke could help bring up his average a bit, though D'Antona draws a decent number of walks and made adjustments after a slow start at the plate for Yakima. He also throws with great power, having hit 94 mph off the mound at a workout for scouts in college. His other third-base tools aren't as impressive, as he has limited range and his hands are just workable. There aren't any immediate plans to move D'Antona from third base, as he'll be adequate there if he can streamline his body, but first base could be his future destination. He will join 2003 first-rounders Jackson and Carlos Quentin in the heart of the high Class A batting order this year.
Snyder rated as the best defensive catcher in the 2002 draft and has proven why during his two pro seasons. He receives balls well with his soft hands and blocks pitches adroitly with an agile and strong body. He also knows how to handle a staff and call games, which he has done since his days in college. His strong, accurate arm and quick release can quiet the running game. He threw out 29 percent of basestealers in 2003 after catching 39 percent in his debut. Snyder began his second pro season repeating high Class A and put up excellent offensive numbers, but fell flat after a move to Double-A. His struggles were attributed to both the advanced pitching and Snyder's conditioning. He has shown a pattern of wearing down in late July as the rigors of catching more than 100 games take their toll. Snyder must get in better shape and increase his endurance if he's to handle 130 games as an everyday catcher in the majors. His swing can be long at times, but Snyder has the bat speed and loft to hit 20-25 home runs annually. He also makes consistent contact and has enough plate discipline to hit for a solid average as well. Snyder will make a second try at Double-A in 2004.
Doyle and his twin brother Nathan, a shortstop, helped James Madison to a school-record 177 wins over three years before Jared signed with the Diamondbacks after going 11-3, 2.57 in 2002. Nathan returned for his senior season before joining the Tigers as a 25th-rounder last June. In 2003, Doyle experienced the success expected of a polished college pitcher in low Class A. He tossed a one-hitter and a pair of three-hitters, and he was the leading winner on a South Bend staff that also included Dustin Nippert and Adriano Rosario. Doyle can't match their stuff, but he has a 91-94 mph fastball, a plus curveball and a solid changeup. His deceptive delivery makes it tough for hitters to get a good look at him, and his pitches have above-average movement that compensates for less-than-pinpoint command. Doyle often nibbles early in the count and falls behind, resulting in good hitters' pitches and too many walks. Spring training will determine if he begins 2004 in high Class A or Double-A.
Drafted by the Devil Rays in the 37th round out of high school and by the Royals as an 18th-rounder out of Shelton State (Ala.) Community College, Medders finally signed as an eighth-rounder out of Mississippi State. His ERA has been inflated by launching pads at Lancaster and El Paso the last two years, but he has shown late-inning stuff after moving to the bullpen because of his herky-jerky, max-effort delivery. Medders has a 91-94 mph fastball that sinks and tops out at 96. It has plus life and naturally moves like a cutter. He also shows a good feel for his hard slider, which he can add and subtract from. Medders showed a closer's mentality by assuming that role at El Paso when Brian Bruney was promoted last year. The Diamondbacks added him to the 40-man roster in November and expect him to finish games in Triple-A this year. He could make his major league debut this summer.
Chico enjoyed plenty of hype coming out of high school, having pitched for two U.S. junior national teams and getting drafted in the second round by the Red Sox. He turned Boston down to attend Southern California and was the Trojans' Opening Day starter in 2002, but left after his freshman year because of academic troubles. He attended Palomar (Calif.) JC last year, but was ineligible to play there because of poor grades. He pitched in a beer league in California and Diamondbacks scouts spotted him there. Chico's body type, mentality and pitching style are similar to Mike Hampton, though he has much more velocity. Chico is a bulldog with a 92-93 mph fastball that tops out at 96-97. He works it to all quadrants of the strike zone. Chico also uses a curveball with a hard downward break and has shown a feel for a changeup. He does struggle with the consistency of his offspeed pitches, and often relies too much on his fastball because he doesn't want to get beat with anything but his best pitch. He'll need to develop his other offerings if he's to reach his ceiling of a middle-of-the-rotation starter. He's also working on adding a cutter. Chico is destined for low Class A in 2004.
Garthwaite played football in high school and still has the physique to prove it. The Athletics drafted him in the 12th round after his prep career, but Garthwaite instead attended Washington, where he set a freshman record with 12 home runs. His uncle Larry Angel played in the minors and reached Triple-A. Garthwaite has a nice assortment of raw tools, including power to all fields. But he's overaggressive at the plate and gives away too many at-bats with long swings when he fails to recognize breaking balls. A center fielder in college, Garthwaite plays an above-average right field with good speed for his size. His arm is average. He still can play center in a pinch, as he did when Marland Williams missed time at Lancaster with a hand injury last year. Garthwaite is a consummate pro and solid character guy. He'll try to refine his raw tools next year at Double-A, and could show 30-homer power at the major league level.
Stockman signed out of Australia at age 17 as a tall but rail-thin thrower with limited experience on the mound. Arizona's player-development staff turned Stockman from a project into a prospect by helping him maintain a more consistent and smoother delivery and arm slot. Stockman now throws on a steep downhill plane, using the leverage from his 6-foot-7 frame to bump his velocity into the 89-94 mph range and as high as 96. He most often sinks his fastball at 91-92. Stockman also features a decent breaking ball and changeup. He used that repertoire to rank third in the Texas League in strikeouts last year. He also finished third in walks because he still needs to refine his command and consistency. Blisters also have plagued Stockman for the last three years. Much like Royals lefthander Jeremy Affeldt, he has tried several remedies and may have to move to the bullpen if no solution is found. Stockman will pitch out of the Triple-A rotation in 2004.
If not for his mother, Aquino might not be with the Diamondbacks anymore. He was one of the first players ever signed by the organization, but hit just .229 as a shortstop over his first four seasons. He almost quit after Arizona asked him to see how his arm strength would translate on the mound, but his mother told him not to give up on his dream of playing in the majors. Aquino has shown improvement each year on the mound, topping out at 99-100 mph in a 2003. Though his fastball is straight, its sheer velocity still makes it tough to hit. He also throws a power slider, and is daring enough to throw it in any count despite his inconsistent command. Aquino will show a two-seam fastball and a changeup at times, but he doesn't have a reliable offspeed pitch to complement his hard, hard, harder approach. As a result, the bullpen is the best place for him. Aquino has missed time with elbow and shoulder discomfort and tendinitis over the last year and a half. While he always comes back with his same power stuff, the recurring problems are troubling. The Diamondbacks see him eventually settling into a role like the one Oscar Villarreal had in 2003, getting key outs in middle relief and also serving as a set-up man. Aquino could begin 2004 in Triple-A and move to the majors at midseason.
Nance was a human yo-yo in 2003, moving between Milwaukee and Triple-A Indianapolis four times. He had trouble sticking with the Brewers because he was hit hard and kept coughing up homers. He tore the biceps muscle in his right arm in 2002, but it didn't hold him back in 2003. Milwaukee sent him to Arizona in the Richie Sexson trade, and Nance will try to fill the lefty specialist role with a new organization. He has pitched well throughout the minors, and to succeed in the majors he's going to have to work down and away more often instead of leaving the ball over the plate. He pitches with a solid fastball, plus changeup and so-so curveball. Generously listed at 5-foot-8, Nance throws on a very flat plane that makes his stuff easier to hit. His command has been fine in the minors, but he has been too tentative in the majors. He'll audition for the Arizona staff in spring training.
The Diamondbacks can't discuss Gonzalez without mentioning fellow Venezuelan Bobby Abreu. The comparisons are quite strong at the same stage of their careers, though Gonzalez showed more power at 17 while Abreu displayed more of his trademark plate discipline. Like Abreu, Gonzalez is a solid defender with average speed and a strong right-field arm. He actually hit 91 mph off the mound when the Diamondbacks were scouting him. Gonzalez was the Rookie-level Pioneer League's youngest player in 2003, and his advanced bat allowed him to hold his own. The ball jumps off his bat because of the natural loft in his swing. Gonzalez does worry too much about striking out and hates to get into two-strike counts, so he ends up swinging at bad pitches, which leads to poor at-bats. He'll need to show more patience if he's to reach his ceiling as a .290 hitter capable of 20-25 homers annually. Gonzalez will address his biggest need--gaining experience--in low Class A this year.
Unlike many teams, the Diamondbacks have put late-inning relief prospects into those roles in the minors rather than keeping them in the rotation to get more innings and work on more pitches. The approach has paid off with pitchers such as Byung-Hyun Kim, Mike Koplove, Bret Prinz, Jose Valverde and Oscar Villarreal. Brian Bruney and Brandon Medders are on the verge of the majors. Glant is the best of the closers lower in the system, a group that also includes Pete Sikaras (23 saves at Lancaster) and Matt Wilkinson (30 at South Bend). Glant didn't get much exposure as a closer for a mediocre Purdue team last spring, so Arizona was able to get him in the seventh round. He led the Northwest League with 18 saves, breaking lots of bats with a 90-94 mph fastball with great sinking life similar to Brandon Webb's. Glant also uses an 80-82 mph power slider and a cut changeup. He has a closer's mentality and throws so many strikes that the ninth inning is pretty automatic for him. He'll hop on the fast track to the majors in low Class A this year, with a mid-season jump possible.
Luellwitz was part of the same Vanderbilt recruiting class as Mark Prior, and he was named Commodores MVP twice during his three years in college. Drafted in 2002 mostly because the Diamondbacks needed an extra first baseman to help fill rosters, Luellwitz tightened up his body after his pro debut by dropping 15 pounds and adding muscle. The results were positive as the Wisconsin native felt right at home in the Midwest League last year, where he ranked second in slugging and fourth in doubles while playing in a tough hitter's park. He shows a short stroke with power to all fields, though he could stand to walk more. Managers rated Luellwitz as the MWL's best defensive first baseman for his range and soft hands, and South Bend pitchers felt more comfortable with him in the lineup. He also emerged as a team leader. Luellwitz was old for low Class A at 22, but he came a long way over the course of the season and was rewarded by staying with the team during its playoff run. He could hit 30 homers in a full year at Lancaster's launching pad in 2004, but he'll probably hop to Double-A as soon as he shows he's ready.
Ball grew up just outside of Houston, where he learned the game from his father Randy, a former minor league catcher. Ball turned down a college commitment to play for his hometown University of Houston after the Diamondbacks drafted him. He was overmatched as a 19-year-old in low Class A in 2002, not reaching base enough to make use of his plus speed. Ball became an all-star his second time through the Midwest League, showing good baserunning instincts and quickness as he swiped 32 bases in 43 attempts. He's a good defender who can play center field, though his arm is below average. A singles and doubles hitter, Ball would fit nicely atop a lineup if he can improve his plate discipline. But his 2-1 strikeout-walk ratio leaves much to be desired from a player who has shown little pop. Ball might have trouble standing out in an organization suddenly rife with outfield talent, especially in center. He'll try to impress again in high Class A in 2004.
In many ways, Cota is the second coming of former Diamondbacks first baseman Erubiel Durazo. Both grew up in Hermosillo, Mexico, before polishing their compact but powerful strokes at high schools and junior colleges in Arizona. Cota won the Rookie-level Pioneer League triple crown in 2001. He again posted loud numbers in 2002, though his free-swinging ways detracted from his batting average. Like Durazo, Cota suffered from a power outage in 2003, with his drought the result of a hip flexor that nagged him all year before he was shut down in early August. Playing the outfield regularly for the first time also could have aggravated the condition. Unable to get his hips involved in his swing, Cota often felt for the ball and flailed away. The Diamondbacks will give Cota a pass for 2003, and hope his ability to drive fastballs out of the park to all fields returns this year. He's an average left fielder at best because his speed and arm strength are limited. He's a better fit at first base, where he played most often in his first two pro years. He spent the winter conditioning in Tucson, and a solid spring should send him back there for Triple-A competition.
Barden is essentially a righthanded-hitting version of Chad Tracy with even less power. It's tough to overcome that rap at an infield corner, and a .399 slugging percentage in the hitter-friendly Texas League last year didn't help his cause. But Barden has overcome plenty in his career, becoming a three-time all-Pacific-10 Conference player at Oregon State after taking one of the few scholarship offers he received. He didn't get a lot of draft attention, but still earned a spot on the California League all-star team in his half-season pro debut. Barden's compact stroke and ability to make adjustments should allow him to hit at any level, and in fairness his power was diminished by a thumb injury that cost him a month last summer. Like Jarred Ball, he'll have to draw more walks if he's not going to provide more pop. Barden's quick, athletic play and solid arm give him Gold Glove potential at third base. He reminds some scouts of David Bell or a young Jeff Cirillo. Barden could play second base if needed but isn't nearly the same caliber of defender in the middle of the diamond. If Tracy doesn't make the big league club in his battle with Shea Hillenbrand for Arizona's third-base job, Barden could return to Double-A.
After signing Edgar Gonzalez and Oscar Villareal out of Mexico, the Diamondbacks have another find in Lizarraga. He really blossomed in 2003, adding 10 pounds to his skinny 6-foot-4 frame before succeeding in a swing role in low Class A. He moved to the rotation for good in late July and allowed just nine runs over his final seven starts. Lizarraga always had fine command of his three-pitch repertoire and a knack for pitching beyond his years, but the extra strength helped raise his fastball from 87-89 mph to the low 90s. He occasionally hit 94. He also throws a solid slider and a changeup. Lizarraga likes to set hitters up by adding and subtracting velocity from his fastball and slider while moving the pitches around the strike zone. He followed up with a strong winter in the Mexican Pacific League. Lizarraga should move up to the rotation in Lancaster, a hitter's park that will prove a stern test. The Diamondbacks think he ultimately can end up similar to Miguel Batista.
Cormier set several school records in a four-year career at Alabama, and his track record, polish and competitive nature attracted the Diamondbacks. In 2003, his first full season, he pitched well after an emergency promotion to Triple-A but had less success in high Class A or Double-A. Cormier throws four solid-average pitches, led by a changeup and curveball. He also has an 88-92 mph fastball and a slider. He delivers all four offerings with pinpoint command but lacks a true out pitch. He could evolve as a back-of-the-rotation starter or return to the bullpen, where he saved 11 games to lead the Southeastern Conference as a freshman. With heated competition set for El Paso's rotation, Cormier could begin 2004 in Triple-A.