Name: Jay Garthwaite
Position: Where do you want him?
Jay Garthwaite has some incredible potential. Taken in the 14th round of the 2002 MLB draft out of the University of Washington, Garthwaite has a sweet power stroke, better than average speed, and played at least average defense at five different positions this past season. Unfortunately for Garthwaite time is running out.
While 25 might seem incredibly young to the rest of us, it's ancient by the Hi-A California League standards, and Garthwaite seems to have stalled at that level. Which is kind of incredible, because he reached the Cal League in his first year of pro ball. Garthwaite was mixed in among the first really incredible draft the Diamondbacks pulled off under Director of Scouting Mike Rizzo.
In his first season Garthwaite started out in the Short Season Northwest League, earned a promotion to Lo-A South Bend, and hit .367 in a seven game stint with the JetHawks at the end of the season. The future looked bright for the outfielder, and got brighter when he hit nearly .300 with 22 homers in a full season at Hi-A.
Then came 2004, the Texas League, and breaking balls. Garthwaite went 1-4 in his first game at Double-A. It was the last time his batting average would see .200 at the Double-A level, and 41 games later it was the last Double-A would see of Garthwaite. He moved back down to Lancaster, hit .311 and knock 12 out of the park in 63 games. The Diamondbacks were quietly wondering in they had rushed him.
Unfortunately for Garthwaite, that 2002 draft was just the tip of the iceberg. In 2003 the D'Backs drafted Carlos Quentin and Conor Jackson, both of whom played the outfield, and quickly passed Garthwaite on the organizational totem pole. In 2004 Jon Zeringue was taken in the second round out of LSU, and he too passed Garthwaite. All of a sudden Jay Garthwaite looked up and it was three full seasons later and he was still in Hi-A.
Batting and Power: Garthwaite has been known to hit mammoth shots, just majestic, stand up and oohhh and aahhh shots, and then strikeout badly the next three times to the plate. A dead red fastball hitter who can turn on any, and we do mean any, fastball, he's never developed the strike zone discipline that the Diamondbacks would like. He's always put his best numbers up hitting in front of great hitters like Stephen Drew, Miguel Montero, Quentin or Jackson, because pitchers are more apt to throw him fastballs. He's never had success against soft tossers, and his 131 strikeouts in 487 at bats this season shows that the Cal League pitchers are catching on.
"We like Jay," Diamondbacks Director of Scouting Mike Rizzo says, "he's a tough, hard nosed player with good power."
Baserunning and Speed: Garthwaite runs just okay, and it showed particularly when he was given the opportunity to play center field occasionally this past season in Lancaster. He won't steal many bases, but he also won't be asked to, as he is most certainly a middle of the order hitter. He's aggressive to a fault on the basepaths, sometimes making mistakes with his aggression, and costing the team valuable outs, and he's also the most likely to run over a catcher during a play at the plate.
Defense: Garthwaite might have been the inspiration for the phrase, "Jack of all trades, master of none." He played first base, third base, and all three outfield spots at one time or another this past year, and is serviceable defensively at all but center field. He projects as an average to slightly above left fielder, and an average right fielder, but his ability to play the infield corners adds value. He will never be known for his defense, but he'll never lose a job over it either.
Projection: There were whispers that Garthwaite might be on the way out of the organization, but Rizzo thinks no such thing.
"He's a good producer, a good asset to have," Rizzo says, "if you look at his numbers, homers, runs scored and RBI, they speak for themselves. He needs to develop a little more patience at the plate, and make more contact, but he's someone we've always got our eye on."
With the logjam of outfield prospect ahead of him, the best case scenario for the now 25 year old Garthwaite is to get moved to another club. Teams have inquired, and he's my no means untouchable, but the Diamondbacks like his tools enough they aren't just going to give him away either. If he has a future in this organization, it's probably at third base, after center field the weakest of his defensive positions.
ETA: Garthwaite will almost certainly get another crack at Double-A ball in 2006, and it could be make it or break it time. If he can learn to stay back and back away from the breaking stuff out of the zone he has the some of the best raw power in the organization. Position challenges will likely be the second biggest obstacle, as the Diamondbacks will have to scramble to find him a spot. He's still at least two years away from being a fourth outfielder, and might end up being the next Josh Kroeger, pretty good but just not good enough.
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