#Shortstops: Report cards for stars

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Bill Francis

With the right information, calculation and good luck, a big league team’s fortunes can change dramatically by drafting a future Hall of Famer like Ken Griffey Jr., Greg Maddux, Reggie Jackson or Trevor Hoffman.

Soon, a new contingent amateurs will embark on a similar professional baseball quest.

The destiny of more than 1,200 players will be determined at the 2019 MLB Draft. Each of the 30 big league teams employs talent hunters, those men and women who searched far and wide for the elusive ballplayer who could one day play at the big league level. With a good eye for talent, a baseball scout can predict future success for these young and talented players.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum makes scouting reports from its collections available digitally through its online collection. Available at https://collection.baseballhall.org/PASTIME/scouting-reports, approximately 3,500 scouting reports are now available with more to be added in the future.

Written and/or donated by many scouts, from Hugh Alexander to George Zuraw, these reports, which date back to the 1950s, include those for Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks while they were toiling in the Negro Leagues, one for Phil Neikro when he was tossing his knuckleball in a United Mine Workers League, a pair for Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, as well as a few for potential 2020 Hall of Fame electee Derek Jeter.

One of the more unique segments of the collection is the inclusion of a dozen scouting reports for Tim, J.D. and Stephen Drew, the only trio of brothers all selected in the first round of the MLB Draft. Stephen was born four-and-a-half years after Tim and seven-and-a-half years behind J.D. In 1997, Tim and J.D. made history by becoming the first pair of brothers to be selected in the first round in the same year.

Having a pair of brothers become first-round picks has happened a number of times over the years, with such noteworthy examples as Andy and Alan Benes, and Dimitri and Delmon Young. More recently, Bo Naylor was the first-round pick of the Indians in 2018 and his brother Josh a first-rounder by the Marlins in 2015.

As for the Drew siblings, Tim was selected by the Indians 28th overall out of Lowndes County High School in Valdosta, Ga., in the 1997 MLB Draft. A right-handed pitcher, he played 11 professional seasons, including parts of five in the majors with the Indians, Expos and Braves. In 35 big league games from 2000 to 2004, he finished with a 2-4 record and a 7.02 ERA. He retired in 2006 at the age of 29.

In a 1997 Tim Drew report from the White Sox’ Doug Laumann, the scout wrote, “Very athletic kid that still has a chance to get a little stronger in the future. Is not a real big kid right now. Has good strength, but should mature more as he gets a little older. Brother of J.D. Drew, who matured significantly after he left high school.

“This kid has a chance to have 3 or 4 average to plus pitches in the future with solid average command. Was very impressive. Really displayed the ability to pitch. Used fastball, curveball, slider and change whenever he wanted and threw them all for strikes. Overmatched opponent with stuff as well as the way he set them up.”

In 1996, Brewers scout Russ Bove’s report on Tim Drew read, in part, “Well developed body. Strong and durable. Fastball ranges from 89-91 mph. Ball jumps out of hand. Sinks when down. Tends to drop arm angle. Curveball long, roundhouse type. Gets underneath ball. Slider has sharpness. Too long. Tough on right-handed hitters. Has feel for changeup. Delivery reminds of Dennis Eckersley.”

Outfielder J.D. Drew was selected by the Giants in the 20th round in 1994 from Lowndes County High School but did not sign; by the Phillies in the 1st round (2nd overall) in 1997 from Florida State but did not sign; and by the Cardinals in the 1st round (5th overall) from Florida State and did sign. He would go on to play 14 seasons in the majors with the Cardinals, Braves, Dodgers and Red Sox. A 2008 All-Star, he ended his career in 2011 with 1,437 hits, a .278 batting average, 273 doubles and 242 home runs.

In a scouting report from 1997, White Sox scout Rico Cortes wrote of J.D. Drew’s strengths: “Hands exploded thru zone, solid contact, short swing, great bat speed. Discipline hitter, drives the ball, uses lower body well, serious power, charges balls well and gets good jumps on fly balls. Good work ethic, very poised. Above average arm with accuracy. Good instincts.

“Definitely a big league player, can’t miss. Future .300 ave., 30 homers potential.”

Brewers scout Russ Bove in a 1997 report on J.D. Drew wrote, “Solid, powerful body. Well-developed. Sloped shoulders. Lightning quick bat. Really attacks ball. Crowd pleasing H.R. power. Has improved all phases of game. Plus arm strength and carry. Needs to learn to keep legs underneath throws. Plus runner underway. Good base-running skills. Has O.F. instincts. Profile #3 hitter in big league lineup.”

Infielder Stephen Drew followed brother J.D. to Florida State after not signing with the Pirates in 2001 after being an 11th round pick out of Lowndes County High School. Three years later, the Diamondbacks selected him in the 1st round (15th overall) in the 2004 MLB Draft. Stephen went on to a 12-year career in the majors, spent with the D-backs, Red Sox, Nationals, Yankees and A’s, leaving the field after 2017 with 1,109 career hits, a .252 batting average, 258 doubles and 123 homers.

A 2001 report from the Major League Scouting Bureau’s Tim Osborne began with, “Same body type as a young Bret Boone, though not quite as thick,” before adding, “Smooth swing with good wrists & pop considering build. Likes to turn on ball. Overall quickness, can get rid of ball. Body control. Very good idea how to play.

“This guy knows how to look out there, flashes the actions with tools.”

In 2004, A’s scout Jim Pransky wrote of Stephen Drew’s strengths: “Very good hitting approach with solid all-around game … Calm, easy swing. Patient approach. Hit most balls to right center … Made all the plays defensively. Good feet. Gliding, athletic actions. Very good overall instincts. Showed a quick release when needed. Stylish. Looks like he doesn’t say much, just plays.

“Pretty solid all-around game. Has all the tools. Not a physical marvel, but a baseball player. Shows tools and ability to play shortstop, bat will allow him to play anywhere. Potential ML All-Star. Really like bat/approach.”

In 2006, J.D. Drew told the Los Angeles Times what was one of the keys to the brother’s baseball success.

"We didn't have cable until I was 18, and we rarely watched any TV," J.D. said. "We played sports and spent our time outdoors.

“Every day after school when we got done with the school work, we’d go play,” he added. “That was instilled in us and got us to where we are today.”

Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series