Diamondbacks Spring Spotlight: Stephen Drew

Any time a first round pick bats .316 in his first 200+ at bats of major league action, he will have some lofty expectations set for the next 500. Expectations for Stephen Drew's sophomore season may be even higher due to his elder brother. Unfortunately for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Stephen will almost certainly fall way short of what most fans and analysts are predicting for his 2007 season.

Some call it a sophomore slump.  Others call it regressing to the mean or plummeting back to Earth.  Regardless of the title, very few rookies who have standout seasons match that performance in their second year- particularly those who did not spend all of their rookie year in the majors.

Not only has Drew's major league excellence been brief, but his minor league numbers were a mere flash as well.  Excluding his stint in the hitter's paradise of Lancaster, Drew's minor league career does not indicate someone who is ready to attain superstar status in the majors.

  AB HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
2005- Lancaster (Hi-A) 149 10 39 .389 .486 .738
2005- Tennessee (AA) 101 4 13 .218 .301 .386
2006- Tucson (AAA) 342 13 51 .284 .340 .462

Drew only has 207 professional games under his belt, not even a season-and-a-half's worth of games.  Expecting him to spearhead an offense would be preposterous.  Of course, with just 148 games under his belt last year, Drew graduated to the majors and became one of Arizona's most dependable hitters down the stretch.  Why should things be any different this season?

The main reason that player have sophomore slumps is because scouting reports become much more detailed for a second year player who had a big rookie season.  At this point, Drew's scouting report should be fairly simple: avoid the strike zone, and Drew will get himself out.  His plate discipline has been universally poor, but proved even worse at the big league level, as he drew but 10 unintentional walks as compared to 50 strikeouts.

His older brother, JD Drew, has long been criticized for not getting the most out of his talent due to motivational problems.  Stephen hasn't really hit that roadblock so far, but it bears watching whether he'll be able to dig himself out of a prolonged slump in the majors.

A secondary explanation for many second-year failings is simply that for a rookie to have put up standout numbers, he must have received his fair share of luck.  Many of Drew's hits last year were certainly bloopers and seeing-eye grounders.  Moreover, balls really didn't jump off his bat outside of the arid desert.  He batted .273 and slugged .391 away from Chase Field.  He could only hit homers there and in the Friendly Confines last year, going 99 homerless at bats everywhere else.  Naturally, he gets to benefit from Chase again this season, but his impotence on the road could easily lead to frustration and lingering mechanical problems with his swing.

Aside from that pretty swing of his, Drew possesses above average speed and a solid glove.  This ensures that even in a worst case scenario with the bat, Drew should still be a useful player this year.   

There are still many reasons to believe that Stephen Drew will have a fine career.  But those expecting him to have a standout offensive season in 2007 are likely going to be quite disappointed.  Let's put the Alex Rodriguez comparisons aside until Drew first proves that he's not the next Alex Cintron

2007 Prediction: .272/.320/.457 16 HR 61 RBI

Read more from Keith Glab at BaseballEvolution.com  

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