D’backs see shortstop as Counsell’s successor
The Tucson Sidewinders' Stephen Drew hits a home run in the first inning against Salt Lake at Tucson Electric Park
During every Sidewinders home game, the announcer asks fans to vote for their favorite former Tucson player among major league stars Luis Gonzalez, Bobby Abreu, Craig Biggio and Kenny Lofton.
If he lives up to the hype, 10 years from now, Tucson shortstop Stephen Drew could be the majority’s answer to that question.
Just don’t try telling him that.
“You go out there and play,” he said. “I’ve dealt with that since I was a freshman in college, so I’m used to it.”
Right now for Drew, 23, “that” means the expectations that come with being Baseball America’s overall No. 5 prospect, the little brother of Dodgers outfielder J.D. Drew and a former No. 1 draft pick who held out for nearly a year before getting a $4 million signing bonus.
The Diamondbacks even had Baseball America’s No. 2 overall prospect and 2005 No. 1 pick Justin Upton switch to center field because Drew blocked his path at shortstop.
“You’re talking about a guy (in Drew) who’s an outstanding shortstop,” Tucson manager Chip Hale said. “He’s got all the tools to play that position at the major league level. He just needs more playing time, and he’s going to be a real good big league player.”
Midway through this season, Drew has the added weight of playing for the U.S. Team in the All-Star Futures game Sunday at PNC Park as a part of MLB’s All-Star Weekend before taking part in the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 12 in Toledo, Ohio.
Drew earned those invitations by batting .286 with 12 home runs and 48 RBIs through Monday.
Even with all these honors, Hale said Drew’s very coachable and great in the clubhouse.
“He could be tough, but not with him,” Hale said. “He’s a very humble kid, wants to learn, listens. You see all the different things and read about him and the money he signed for, you’re not totally sure that’s what’s going to be it, but you meet him, and he’s just a really down-to-earth kid.”
His comfort around the clubhouse stems in part from having a pair of big league brothers, J.D. as well as another older brother, Tim Drew, who pitched in the majors. All three were first-round draft picks, a feat no pair of brothers had ever accomplished.
But the downside of that is that Stephen is frequently compared to J.D. because of their family ties, sweet swings and even their elongated holdouts after being picked in the first round.
“It’s good to be compared to him, but also I’m a different player than he is, too, so people need to understand that,” Drew said. “He plays the outfield. Outfielders, they don’t have to worry about as many things as the infield, like runners on and all that kind of stuff.”
For all these reasons, it appears Drew is Arizona’s heir apparent at shortstop next season as the Diamondbacks’ 35-year-old starter, Craig Counsell, (.268, two homers) hits the downside of his career.
In fact, if Arizona falls out of the pennant race, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Drew gets his shot later this year.
“(I need to) play every day and play hard, just refine my skills a little and swing it,” Drew said. “Hopefully, one of these days I’ll be up there sooner than later.”
Full-page poster of Stephen Drew on Page 5C: Take the poster to Tucson Electric Park tonight between 5:05 and 5:20 to get Drew’s autograph. Tucson hosts Tacoma at 6 tonight.
Coming Friday: full-page poster of Sidewinders outfielder Chris Young
Stephen Drew, 23, is hitting .286 with 12 homers and 48 RBIs for Tucson this season.
J.D. Drew, 30, has a .286 average, 151 homers and 456 RBIs in nine major league seasons.
Tim Drew, 27, was 2-4 with a 7.02 ERA in 35 career games between 2000 and 2004