With so many young players on their pro roster the Arizona Diamondbacks felt no need to be position specific in this year’s draft. Their focus was on getting the ‘best players available’ and the first 18 draft picks in the D’Backs 2004 First Year Player draft proved that to be true.
In fact the only preference the Diamondbacks expressed was, quite literally, the last player the D’Backs took on Day One. Day One yielded seven pitchers, but left handed pitching was something the club wanted, and they waited until their 18th pick, Southern University A&M’s Vincent Davis, to address that concern. Meanwhile they snatched four outfielders, three shortstops, two first basemen, and two catchers to go along with Davis.
First pick Stephen Drew (Florida State University) is the most dangerous pick of the bunch. Widely regarded as a supreme talent Drew (he’s the younger brother of former first rounders J.D. and Tim, making the Drew family the first in MLB history to have three siblings as first round draft picks) is, like his brother J.D. represented by Scott Boras. Many will remember that when J.D. Drew was drafted by Philadelphia he refused to sign, instead playing in the Independent League for a season until the Phillies were forced to trade his rights to the St. Louis Cardinals. Several teams interested in the youngest Drew backed off the highly touted youngster fearing they wouldn’t be able to sign him.
According to Chip Baker, FSU’s Head of Baseball Operations, the Diamondbacks were given a gift when Drew slipped to #15. “He wants to play,” Baker said Monday. If Drew signs and stays healthy the D’Backs may very well have found themselves a future star. Drew lived up to expectations immediately at FSU where he was the SEC Freshman of the Year, and during the summers he has been working out with his older brother and other major leaguers. Said Baker, “There’s no doubt he can be a star in the Major Leagues.”
The Diamondbacks also followed the recent trend among many major league clubs in taking players coming out of college, rather than drafting high schoolers. All 18 of the D’Backs Day One picks had spent at least some time in college.
While the D’Backs claimed they had no particular needs, certainly in position players some trends emerged. With Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez aging, the D’Backs took several highly regarded outfielders, most notably LSU’s Jonathan Zeringue. Zeringue, who looks bigger than his listed 6’2” 215lbs, features a short, compact swing that many scouts feel could translate into a .330 batting average and 30+ home runs.
Could the Richie Sexson injury be dancing in the backs of the D’Backs heads? After taking two first basemen on Day One it certainly seems possible. Vanderbilt’s Cesar Nicolas is a monster at 6’4” 230lbs, and Stanford’s William Carter is a project the Diamondbacks feel could reap big rewards down the line.
The fourteenth pick has to be considered a big one, because it is the second time in as many seasons the Snakes drafted SS Lester Contreras. The St. Petersburg Community College star has been a rapidly emerging prospect who’s stock has risen to the tune of nearly 30 rounds in the last year. Slick in the field with great speed, he has drawn hushed comparisons to Alfonso Soriano.
There always seem to be a plethora of prospects in the Diamondback’s back yard, they always seem to grab a couple of them, and Day One was no different. Two players from the University of Arizona were chosen in the first 12 rounds by the D’Backs. Catcher Richard Mercado and his battery mate Koley Kolberg (who narrowly edges Zeringue for best D’Back Day One Draft name) might find themselves right back in Tuscon before long.
Perhaps the most intriguing pitching prospect is Jimmy Shull of Cal-Poly St. The slender right hander throws in the high 80s, but has only been pitching for two years, and his raw talent alone makes him one to keep on the radar.
Arizona’s Day One first round picks.
#1 (No. 15 overall) SS Stephen Drew—Florida State University
#2 (56) OF Jonathan Zeringue—Louisiana State University
#3 (86) RHP Garrett Mock—University of Houston
#4 (116) RHP Curtis Ohlendorf—Princeton University
#5 (146) 1B Cesar Nicolas—Vanderbilt University
#6 (176) OF Brandon Burgess—Sonoma State University
#7 (206) RHP Koley Kolberg—University of Arizona
#8 (236) RHP Jimmy Shull—California Poly State University
#9 (266) RHP Austin Shappi—University of California Riverside
#10 (296) RHP Steven Jackson—Clemson
#11 (326) OF Darryl Lawhorn—East Carolina University
#12 (356) C Richard Mercado—University of Arizona
#13 (386) OF Antoan Richardson—Vanderbilt University
#14 (416) SS Lester Contreras—St. Petersburg Junior College
#15 (446) C Daniel Pohlman—Northwestern
#16 (476) SS Mark Reynolds—University of Virginia
#17 (506) 1B William Carter—Stanford
#18 (536) LHP Vincent Davis—Southern University A&M