05/26/2004 11:10 AM ET
Easygoing Drew focused on draft
FSU shortstop could join brothers as first-round pick
By Chris Gigley / Special to MLB.com
Taking infield practice before a late-season conference game against Wake Forest, Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew scoops up ground balls with the casual ease of a player with more natural talent than most of his peers on the diamond. His manner could be perceived as indifference, but it's not.
|Like his two brothers before him, Stephen Drew's projected as a first-round pick. (Phil Coale/AP)
Yet, as Drew approaches the 2004 Draft with the chance to join Tim and J.D. as the first trio of brothers to be chosen in the first round, he has taken his lumps from scouts and the media. When hurt, he has been unfairly judged as injury prone because of J.D.'s health struggles in the big leagues. When on the field, scouts have mistaken his solemn, businesslike approach for nonchalance.
"They don't know him," said Florida State hitting coach Mike Martin Jr. of Drew's critics. "People say he's not friendly, but he is. He's just quiet. He's the way I wish more kids were these days. He's a levelheaded kid who has his priorities in order."
Drew isn't planning to change. He simply shrugs critics off in his typical calm, even way.
"I don't pay attention to it," he said. "I'm someone who goes out there and focuses on what I have to do on the field."
The 6-foot, 193-pound junior said he lets his play do the talking, and it has spoken volumes in his three years in Tallahassee. He was the Baseball America Freshman of the Year and ACC Rookie of the Year in 2002, led the conference with 83 runs and eight triples last year and was first-team All-ACC shortstop for both seasons.
This year, he finished what was likely his final regular season in college with a .353 average, 13 home runs and a team-leading .481 on-base percentage. More importantly, he heated up at the right time. In his final five games leading into the ACC tournament, Drew batted .500 with six RBIs and nine runs.
Drew's quiet personality hasn't been the only thing confounding scouts. His all-around game has been tough to project. Is Drew a middle-of-the-order power threat? Is he a speedy leadoff hitter? At Florida State, he has been both.
"I think his speed is something people often overlook," Martin said. "I think he could be a .300 hitter with 15 to 20 home runs in the big leagues, but he could also steal 35-40 bases. With Eddy [Martinez-Esteve] hitting behind him, we don't run him much because teams will intentionally walk Eddy."
Martin feels Drew's speed also has allowed him to reach many balls other shortstops wouldn't. What scouts have preferred to hone in on, however, is Drew's power, which is surprising given his size. Drew's .706 slugging percentage is second on the team to the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Martinez-Esteve's mark of .721.
"He has a lot of movement and rhythm to his swing, and that makes it a lot of work to maintain," Martin said. "But at the same time it generates a lot of bat speed for him."
Drew isn't troubling himself with thoughts about what type of pro player he'll be.
"It depends on who I get drafted by," he said. "You never know what your role will be. I could be a leadoff hitter or hit further down in the order. When I get there I'll see what happens."
With Tim and J.D. going before him, the youngest Drew has plenty of perspective on the draft and playing in the big leagues. J.D., traded to the Braves this offseason from St. Louis, was the second overall pick by the Phillies in 1997, but didn't sign with them and was then picked fifth overall by the Cardinals in the following draft. Tim, who last pitched in the Majors for the Expos in 2003, was picked 28th by the Indians in '97.
Stephen spent several months with J.D. two summers ago, and the experience has left an indelible impression.
"I learned a lot from being around him and the other guys," Drew said. "I just watched the games and saw how they were played. I saw how guys at that level go about their business and do it day after day."
There are several things, however, he knows he'll have to experience himself to understand, such as how to maintain his quiet, private personality in such a public role.
"I'll just take things one day at a time," he said. "I'll be as nice as I can to the fans, and with the media. I think things will be fine. I'm a quiet guy, but if people are nice to me, I'm nice to them."
Chris Gigley is a contributing writer for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.