Positional Grades: Shortstop

Positional Grades: Shortstop

After Stephen Drew hit .316 in just over 200 minor league at bats, many people are ready to anoint him as the NL batting champion either next year or in 2008.  It doesn't usually work that way.  While excitement over Drew is both understandable and justified, it must be said that he will have his share of struggles over the next couple of years.

We need look no further than Stephen's older brother for a good example of this.  J.D. Drew performed much better than Stephen did in the minor leagues, to the tune of a .344 batting average.  He then made quite an impression in his major league debut, slugging .942 in his first 14 games with the Cardinals.  His sophomore season proved to be a disappointment, however, as the elder Drew went on to hit just .242 in 268 at bats.

Stephen Drew is a different animal than his brother, of course, as he has not exhibited the attitude or work ethic problems that his older brother had.  Yet there is no denying that many of Stephen's hits last year were duck snorts and seeing-eye grounders.  His lack of walks at the major league level serves as a warning that pitchers will learn to retire Drew on pitches outside of the strike zone in 2007.  Luck will catch up to him, and the rest of the league will adjust to him.

All in all, no one should expect Stephen Drew to improve upon his .316 batting average last season.  The organization will be very pleased if he matches his AAA mark of .284.  The batting title may yet come, but as with most of this young Diamondbacks ballclub, fans are going to have to be patient.      

While Drew is regarded as a five tool prospect, the big names behind him either strike you as bat-heavy or glove-heavy. It's not that Mark Reynolds is an abhorrent fielder; his bat is just so darn good that he can be an asset at nearly any position.  He spent time at both second and third base this past season, but should something happen to Drew, don't think that the Diamondbacks wouldn't insert his bat into the shortstop hole four times a week.

Likewise, Alberto Gonzalez isn't a bad hitter; he's a streaky hitter, to the tune of hitting .156 this April and hitting .435 this July.  Yet his defense is so spectacular that Alberto does not even need to reach the median of those numbers to serve as a boon at the shortstop position.  After skipping Hi-A ball, Gonzalez would appear ready to take the defensive side of a Mark Reynolds shortstop platoon in an emergency.

While Gonzalez remains the best defensive shortstop in the organization, he does not possess the best range at the position.  Pedro Ciriaco gets that honor.  But while Ciriaco's raw athleticism won't fail to astound, he's still making a ton of mistakes in the field and doing little to help his team at the plate.  Ciriaco is a high risk/high ceiling type of player.

One guy who the organization thinks might be the entire package is Matt Oxendine, a 15th round selection last year.  Although his rookie numbers did not jump out at you, Oxendine did manage to walk nearly as often as he struck out, which is often a good indicator for future success.  A strong arm and natural quickness benefit Oxendine greatly at shortstop, and scouts believe that he will develop power as he fills out.

Now we won't say that the future of the shortstop position is entirely dependent upon one of these players putting the whole package together.  That's because both Danny Richar and Alberto Callaspo have the ability to play shortstop admirably.  Both of these second basemen are already the complete package, and the threat of those two sliding over to the left side of the infield makes this a position of more than sufficient depth for the organization.     

Positional Grade: B      

Read more from Keith Glab at BaseballEvolution.com

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