The way it's been explained to me, FutureBacks.com is all about the minors, about the prospects, the kids who will help the Diamondbacks in the future, hence, FutureBacks. So with all due respect to Mr. Merchant, Andy Green is not the future of the franchise. At 28 years old, with trips to the Majors in both of the last two years, Andy Green is a fringe Major Leaguer. I believe he has the talent to stick, likely as a utility guy, but he's not a star in the making, not someone who could become a household name.
The Diamondbacks have some players like that. Have some guys who could be All Stars, who could even become Hall of Fame caliber players. Conor Jackson looks like he'll be platooning for one more season, and then take over at first base, and I'd give you even money that he'll win at least one batting title before his time is done. Carlos Quentin is a pure hitter, likewise Chris Carter has emerged as a potential home run machine. In the lower levels Carlos Gonzales is so much better than any 20 year old should be it's almost scary and Cesar Nicolas has shown a combination of power, average, and clutch abilities that make him look like one of the brightest rising stars in the organization.
Still, there's one name that we haven't mentioned, and I wouldn't be surprised if this is the longest FutureBacks has gone without mentioning his name in more than a year.
Stephen Drew is the Position Player Prospect of the Year.
From the moment he fell to #15 in the 2004 draft, and the Diamondbacks scooped him up, signability issues and all, he's been at the forefront of virtually every Diamondback fan's, front office official's, coach's, and player's mind.
"I'm excited just to watch him first hand," said Triple-A Sidewinders Manager Chip Hale of Drew, and all the young shortstop was going to do was some casual workouts in Tucson, preparing for the Arizona Fall League.
"He's going to have plenty of time to showcase himself in the AFL," says Director of Scouting Mike Rizzo, "but we expect to see big things from him soon."
The holdout only seemed to raise the expectations. For nearly a year we (and by 'we' I mean fans, reporters, the front office, and virtually all of minor league baseball) held our breath. Would he sign? For how much? Could he justify it with his play? Finally, just minutes before the Diamondbacks would have lost the rights to him, and he would have re-entered the draft pool, Drew signed, and the Diamondbacks assigned him to Hi-A Lancaster in the California League. It wasn't really a stretch for a player who was universally understood to have the best tools of any position player in the 2004 draft. Still, despite spending a month with the Independent League's Camden Riversharks, he hadn't played baseball at that high a level before, and one had to wonder how long it would take him to get in the groove.
Apparently not long at all.
In his very first game in the Diamondbacks organization Drew went 2-3 with two walks and two runs scored. It took five games for him to hit his first home run, and then he hit a second the next night. He reeled off an 18 game hitting streak during his first month. He had a four games stretch in there where he went 7-17 with a double, five homers, and 10 RBI. He made it look effortless, he made it look like he was a six year veteran who was in Lancaster for a quick rehab tune up.
By the time his stint at Hi-A was done, Drew had put virtually all doubters to rest. In 149 at bats he hit .389, half of his 58 hits went for extra bases, including 10 homers. He drove in 39 and scored 33 times in 38 games. He tweaked his hamstring just a week into his time in Lancaster, so the speed numbers were down a little, but you don't have to run hard when the ball is leaving the park.
"You watch a guy like that hit, and he just makes it look so easy, like there's nothing to it," Tennessee Smokies left hander Clint Goocher said of Drew.
This is a prospect, a true, real, honest to goodness prospect.
But don't expect us to be able to call him that for long. Drew will go to the Arizona Fall League, and if he continues to dominate there he'll come into Spring Training as one of the top candidates to start at shortstop for the Diamondbacks. At that point he'll stop being a candidate for Top Prospect, and start being a candidate for Rookie of the Year. He'll immediately become an All Star candidate, and his five tools make him as good a bet as any rookie to eventually end up in the Hall of Fame.
So in my first article for FutureBacks.com I'll simply say this, Stephen Drew is the Position Player of the Year. Not just for what he did, but what he might do. We're about prospects here, and Drew is the very definition of prospect. If there was such a thing as a 'sure thing' in Minor League Baseball Drew would be it.