Tucson Players of the Month: April

Tucson Players of the Month: April

Really? You were surprised? With Chris Young only coming back in the last week, and Carlos Quentin getting off to a slow start, it seemed obvious that the Tucson Players of the Month for April would be the biggest name and the smallest frame.

Position Player of the Month

Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders

SS 

Stephen Drew

Batting Avg. HR RBI SB BB/K
.340 6 17 1 7/17

Is it really any surprise.  After a stellar spring that nearly saw him make the big league club Drew has come out red hot in Tucson.

"He was one of the most complete players we had seen in a draft," Diamondbacks Director of Scouting Mike Rizzo said after drafting Drew, and that statement is being brought to life on a daily basis down in Tucson right now.  The front office has stated openly that they would like to give Drew a full year in Triple-A before promoting him to the big league club, but almost no one thinks that will be a possibility. 

Drew finishes April, if this is possible, exceeding the expectations that were so high to begin with.  He will carry a 13 game hitting streak into May, his range at shortstop has improved, his footwork has improved, his pitch selection has improved, virtually every aspect of what was already MLB game has improved. 

Making it even more difficult is the fact that Drew may even be hitting out of position right now in Tucson.  He's been hitting second for the entire month, and while most predict that eventually Drew will settle into a middle of the order spot, it almost seems as if the D'Backs are giving him on the job training, since it is unlikely Drew would unseat Chad Tracy, Luis Gonzalez or Shawn Green in the 3, 4 or 5 spots in the order as a rookie.

"You heard a lot of garbage about work ethic," a scout who watched Drew last year in Lancaster says, "but seeing the improvement he's made, all around improvement, has to dispel that myth once and for all."

With Justin Upton no longer looking over his shoulder Drew has just exploded, and the Pacific Coast League is noticing.  He will benefit other teammates like Carlos Quentin, Chris Carter and Chris Young simply by being on base, or in the on deck circle, because pitchers must throw fastballs for strikes.

Bet the house that Drew will see time this season, and if it's a small house, and mostly paid off anyway, you can bet that he will see time before the September roster expansion.  In fact, the only scenario in which does not see time earlier is if the Diamondbacks are challenging for the NL West crown and Craig Counsell is healthy and productive.  In that scenario Drew might spend a full season in the minors, and be introduced to the Arizona fans as the opening day shortstop next season.

Pitcher of the Month

Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders

Right Handed Starter

Enrique Gonzalez

Games/IP

W-L

ERA

BB/K

Opp. Batting Avg.

5/30

2-2

2.70

7/15

.320

Enrique Gonzalez is that guy at the party that everybody says, "Hi" to and then turns to a friend and says, "What's his name again?"

Despite a 11-8 record and a ERA of 3.46 at Double-A Tennessee last season all the talk focused on Tony Pena at the beginning of the year, and Dustin Nippert at the end.  This season at Triple-A Tucson once again Nippert is the hot topic of conversation, as is veteran Kevin Jarvis, who has apparently resurrected both his arm and his career.  Meanwhile the most consistent pitcher the Sidewinders have had is Gonzalez, who will not turn 24 until July. 

He's had some bad luck (of the 15 total runs Gonzalez has allowed only nine are actually earned) and some tough breaks, and since he's made a concerted effort to pitch to contact this year opponents have been getting good cracks at him, but Gonzalez has done exactly what the coaching staff has asked of him and placed himself squarely in the fold of those who might get a look if the D'Backs elect to move Juan Cruz back into the bullpen and call up a youngster to replace him the rotation.

One thing is for certain though, if anybody at that party is going to recognize Gonzalez, it's Diamondbacks Director of Scouting Mike Rizzo.  Now in his seventh year playing in the D'Backs organization, Gonzalez is a known quantity in the front office, and it was no surprise to Rizzo when he had a very good spring training, and easily made the Tucson roster.

"He's a hard nosed kid, really pitches with a lot of heart, and he's got a lot of movement on his pitches.  All his coaches have said that he's very coachable, and every time we've given him a challenge, he's risen to it."

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