The Top 50: #50 to #46...Plus

<i>Where will Jesus Cota end up?</i>

The Top 50 is finally here. Along with the New Year comes the best and brightest stars-to-be in the Diamondbacks system. Plus just to make things interesting we've added a very special #50.5, that's right, the best prospect NOT on the list...makes the list. Five a day, Monday through Friday, as we count down to the top prospect in the D'Backs system.

The Top 50 is finally here.  After months of interviews, evaluations, discussion and hand wringing, we've done the Santa Claus thing, made the list, checked it twice, then reevaluated, discussed some more, and done some more hand wringing...then there were cuts, and trades, and rumored trades.  We're locked and loaded now though, once it's in print, there's no going back you know.  Happy New Year, here's the first five, #50-#46...with a bonus.

#50.5--Stephen Drew

Name Stephen Drew
Position Shortstop
Age 21
Bats Left
Throws Right
'04 Club Florida State Seminoles

Drew doesn't make the official list because he hasn't officially signed.  If and when he does he will immediately rocket to the Top 15, and everybody in baseball thinks he will be #1, in just about any organization.  The younger brother of Major Leaguers JD and Tim, Diamondbacks scouting director Mike Rizzo talked about Drew shortly after the draft.

"He's everything we want in a player. He's got a major league pedigree. He has a chance to be a five-tool player at a premium position." 

What's the problem then?  Like many things in baseball, the problem is Scott Boras.  The Uber-agent want a monster signing bonus for his monster prospect, and apparently the Diamondbacks have been more interested in spending that money on major league free agents.  Is it the right move?  Wait and see.

#50--Gary Varner

Name Gary 'Noochie' Varner
Position Outfield
Age 24
Bats Right
Throws Right
'04 Club Double-A El Paso Diablos (Texas League); Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders (Pacific Coast League)

The first player in the official list is a burner.  Varner needs to make more consistent contact and run more to utilize his speed. 

David Merchant is the top scout for, "Varner sort of has that Lenny Dykstra feel about him.  He'll need to get stronger, not necessarily to hit home runs, but just to get balls in the gap so he can run, and he can run.  He's a blazer.  Real solid defense might end up being his calling card to the Majors, the question will be whether or not he can hit enough to stay."

#49--Orlando Mercado Jr.

Name Orlando Mercado Jr.
Position Catcher
Age 20
Bats Right
Throws Right
'04 Club Short Season A Yakima Bears (Northwest League)

Mercado might be a few years away, but at only 20 years old, that's not a problem.  He's well ahead of his learning curve, especially behind the plate.  Much of that credit goes to his father, a former Major Leaguer and Bill Plummer, who managed the youngster in Yakima last season, says that experience in invaluable.

"Orlando is a kid out of high school who made a lot of improvements and is getting a lot more playing time this year.  He's been around the game his whole life, so he's probably a little more prepared than some kids, and his father taught him fundamentals and he's progressed really nicely."

#48--Chris Snyder

Name Chris Snyder
Position Catcher
Age 24
Bats Right
Throws Right
'04 Club Double-A El Paso Diablos ( Texas League), MLB Arizona Diamondbacks

Snyder had a huge debut in the majors after Koyie Hill went down to injury.  He hit five homers in just under 100 at bats and looked major league ready.  If he plays everyday Snyder's capable of hitting 20 to 25 homers a year, but doesn't appear to be a guy who's going to hit more than .250.  The Diamondbacks have been impressed with his improvement behind the plate, and he'll compete with Koyie Hill, Kelly Stinnett, Corey Myers and (if he's still here) Dioner Navarro for a spot on the roster in '05.

Scott Coolbaugh managed Snyder in Double-A El Paso in 2004, "If he gets the chance to play everyday, Chris is so smart he'll figure out what he needs to do.  He one of the smartest players I ever coached."

#47--Erik Schindewolf

Name Erik Schindewolf
Position Second Base
Age 23
Bats Left
Throws Right
'04 Club Yakima Bears (Short Season A Northwest League)

Coming out of Texas A&M Schindewolf was viewed as a nice little player without the physical tools to be a big leaguer.  While Major League potential still remains to be seen, Schindewolf has quickly established the type of player he can be; one who goes all out, every play. 

"With kids like that you don't necessarily base it all on their tools, because sometimes they just put up numbers everywhere they go," Plummer said of Schindewolf, "he's got speed, he'll hit .300 for you, but really he's just a gutty player.  You just loving having a kid like him on the team."

#46--Sergio Lizarraga

Name Sergio Lizarraga
Position Pitcher
Age 23
Bats Right
Throws Right
'04 Clubs Double-A El Paso Diablos (Texas League)/Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders (Pacific Coast League)

Lizarraga just feels like a kid who needed a chance.  An undrafted free agent out of Mexico, he is a college age player who has college age skills.  Good command, three quality pitches, and a tough mentality...maybe too tough.  To continue moving up he's going to have to stop giving up the long ball with such frequency and continue getting stronger.

Baseball America's Will Kimmey talked about the young righty, "Lizarraga has always had great command of his three-pitch repertoire and a knack for pitching beyond his years, but the extra strength helped raise his fastball from the 87-89 mph range up to the low 90s as he occasionally hit 94. He also throws a solid slider and a changeup. He might end up in a swing role not unlike Miguel Batista had, but is better in the pen." Recommended Stories

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