An Infield Ready to Come Out and Play

An Infield Ready to Come Out and Play

For Triple-A Tucson the list of exciting, ready to go prospect goes on and on. While we profiled the outfield prospects, the infield has no shortage of exciting possible big leaguers either. GM Josh Byrnes is looking at the Diamondbacks future with a smile, and regardless of whether these players become, along with Chad Tracy and Brandon Webb, cornerstones of the organization, or they bring talented veteran pitching to the desert for the stretch run, production is the key.

"Stephen Drew and Alberto Callaspo have really given us a productive middle infield," Josh Byrnes says of his Triple-A Tucson Sidewinder middle infielders.

Drew, of course, was the 15th overall pick, and first by the Diamondbacks, in the 2004 draft.  After holding out for nearly a year the Diamondbacks got him signed, and got him into the system.  Once they did things just absolutely took off for the D'Backs and Drew, who destroyed the Hi-A California League, getting promoted after just two months of pro ball, and then after struggling with injuries for the last half of the 2005 season had a monster season in the Arizona Fall League, a monster 2006 Spring Training, and started the 2006 season at Triple-A Tucson hitting .340 with six homers and 17 RBI in 97 April at bats.  It is as close to a sure thing as there is in the world that Drew will be the Diamondbacks starting shortstop in 2007, and it is almost as likely that he will see some time with the big league club this year, at the very least during the September roster expansion.

Callaspo has not been a surprise, but he is a new face.  Acquired during Spring Training from the L.A. Angels for reliever Jason Bulger, Callaspo had led the minors in walks his last two seasons, is capable of playing both second base and shortstop, and might be the best lead off candidate in the system.  After struggling in April Callaspo has gotten hot of late, hitting in 12 of his first 14 games in May and raising his on base percentage over .300 for the first time this season.  The tandem, hitting 1-2 in the batting order for most of the year, has been setting the table nicely for the mean of the order, scoring 38 runs in the team's first 41 games.

"We got Callaspo because we thought he could play," Byrnes said, "that's the criteria we have for acquiring players.  It isn't a situation where you say, 'We need a second baseman,' it's a situation where you look at what a team is asking for, and what they are offering, and decide what it is that will benefit the organization more."

While the middle infield features prospects that might be a little higher profile, there are intriguing, and potentially just as exciting, prospect at the corner spots. 

Chris Carter is not supposed to be here.  A seldom used player at Stanford, Carter was a 17th round pick by the Diamondbacks, and appears to be another feather in the cap of D'Backs Vice President of Scouting Mike Rizzo.  Coming out of college Carter had two major knocks.  First many believed he could only be a DH as he had never truly proved himself as an adequate defender in either left field or at first base, and second, and perhaps more importantly, the lefty power hitter was thought to be lost when facing left handed pitching.  Once he got signed the Diamondbacks, and his Manager in the Short Season A Northwest League, Bill Plummer, put him the lineup everyday, against both lefties and righties, and were pleasantly surprised to find that not only were lefties not a problem, they were a feast for Carter.  In fact his stats were nearly identical against lefties as they were against righties last season at both Hi-A Lancaster, where he started the season, and Double-A Tennessee, where he finished it.

Defense is still a question mark, but one that is getting addressed on a daily basis by Carter, who is at the park early nearly every day, and according to one scout Carter has made "incredible strides."

"He's not ever going to be Mark Grace at first," the scout says, "but when I first saw him at Yakima he just looked lost.  His footwork was horrible, and he let the ball play him on almost every play.  This season was the first time I'd seen him since Yakima, and his confidence is just so much higher over at first now.  He scoops balls pretty well, and he gets himself in front of the ball on the ground.  It's almost unbelievable the strides he's made.  He's converted me."

Carter is one of the names often mentioned when trade talks surface, in large part because it appears Conor Jackson is the Diamondbacks first baseman of the future, and though Carter has made strides defensively, he still figures to be a below average left fielder, and those are the only two positions Carter is able to play.  Still, if the Diamondbacks were blown away by a offer for Jackson, at least one player on the Sidewinders who has seen both play believes Carter might be a better long term option at first base than Jackson.

"I think Carter might actually be better in the long run.  I think both are about the same defensively, and even though Conor's going to hit for a better average, I don't really see him as ever being a 30 home run guy, and Carter will be.  At the corner spots, power is a key, and once Luis Gonzalez and Shawn Green are gone, the D'Backs are going to be looking for another left handed bat besides Drew."

Third base is the weakest position on the Tucson roster, and even there the D'Backs are blessed with two legit prospects.  Brian Barden is one of the two best defensive infielders in the entire system (the other is Double-A Tennessee shortstop Alberto Gonzalez) and his bat is starting to catch up with his glove.  His future is probably more as a utility guy since he's played 2nd, SS and 3rd with solid fundamentals at all three positions, but if he continues to make strides offensively (last season he hit .307 at Triple-A with a career high 15 homers) putting the bat on the ball, good things will happen when young players do that, as evidenced by his recent eight game hitting streak. 

"He's one of the best defensive third baseman I have ever seen," Tucson Manager Chip Hale has said of Barden, "he makes every play he's supposed to, and he's usually good for one or two a game that he's not supposed to make."

The other option is Kenny Perez, who came to the D'Backs after being a highly touted prospect in the Red Sox organization.  Like Barden Perez probably has a brighter future in a utility role and his defense is on par with Barden's at second base.  Perez is probably a better shortstop, but he's not quite as well versed at third base.  His biggest drawback has been an inability to find playing time, but he's been hitting when he does, and with more consistent at bats should come more consistent offense. Recommended Stories

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