Name: Steve Garrabrants
Position: Center Field
Steve Garrabrants is a hometown kid. Taken in the ninth round 2003 draft by the Diamondbacks out of Arizona State University, Garrabrants was a speedy, hardnosed second baseman with a knack for getting on base and the speed to make opponents pay for letting him do so. The Diamondbacks toyed with Garrabrants at third base, but his lack of power never really profiled well there. Still, the idea of Garrabrants being the player who filled in everywhere, came in late to steal a base or improve the defense sat well with the Diamondbacks, until somebody looked around and realized that nobody in the system seemed to be able to play center field
"I was actually surprised nobody thought of it before," a California league scout said about watching Garrabrants adjust to his new position, "he's got the speed, his arm is solid, and he's a smart player, so you just assume he'll pick it up."
Garrabrants has, and it might be his ticket to the big leagues. When we talked to scouts and coaches about Garrabrants being on the FutureBacks Fifty more than one said that as an infielder he probably wouldn't make it, but after the switch his value to the team increased exponentially.
"There are not that many good center fielders in the system, and there are not that many good lead off hitters in the system," David Merchant says, "and he's an improving center fielder who might have the best eye and patience of any leadoff hitter they've got."
Batting and Power: In 2005 Steve Garrabrants set a professional high with seven home runs. That's not to say that Garrabrants is never going to hit the ball out of the park, in fact added muscle contributed significantly to the homers he did hit in '05, and most coaches think that total will eventually average about 10 a year, but his strength comes in making opposing pitchers throw a lot of pitches, and throw them for strikes.
"He was, by far, the most annoying hitter I faced this year," one California league opponent said, "and that Lancaster team had the top two, with Garrabrants and Erik Schindewolf. Both those guys got every call, because by the second month of the season every umpire in the league knew that if they didn't swing at it it wasn't a strike, and then if you got two strikes on them they'd foul pitches off all day. You just wanted to walk them on four straight and get it over with."
Garrabrants finished with a .400 on base percentage, after hitting .318 for the season, and has steadily cut down on his strikeouts as he's shortened his swing slightly. He's a student of the game, and has been a favorite of his manager at Lancaster last year, Bill Plummer, since Plummer coached him in Yakima during Garrabrants debut season.
Baserunning and Speed: Garrabrants isn't a traditional burner, but he's got more than enough speed to patrol center field once he starts reading the ball off the bat better. He likely won't steal more than 15 or 20 bases in a season (though he did steal 30 in his first year of pro ball) but he also isn't likely to be caught all that often, as he gets some of the best jumps in the minors. He's aggressive but smart on the basepaths, and is one of the only guys who still digs going down to first base on even the most routine plays.
Defense: Garrabrants was one of the top defensive second basemen in the system, and most figure after an offseason of work and a little more seasoning in center field he'll be highly above average there too. The ASU system preaches being a student of the game, and Garrabrants is just that, so expect intensive work learning how to read the ball off the bat and get good jumps. In 2005 he graded out as just an average center fielder, but that will likely change Day One of spring training next year.
Prediction: Garrabrants took one step backwards this year that will likely result in two steps forward next. In actuality it wasn't really a step backwards, it just wasn't the promotion that he was hoping to receive.
Triple-A Tucson Manager Chip Hale got to see a lot of Garrabrants in the Instructional League after the season was over.
"He put up great leadoff numbers last year," Hale says, "and his on base percentage was outstanding. We saw him take some major steps forward with his defense in the outfield, and he's always listening, trying to pick things up."
As a guy who might have been getting blocked, or even passed, at second base, the move to the outfield has opened up a ton of doors for Garrabrants, but he's still going to be behind Jarred Ball and Marland Williams, at least for now.
ETA: But the fact that he will now be able to almost literally play every position on the field adds value, and he could become a do-it-all guy for the Diamondbacks as early as 2007. An injury and an overload of outfielders in Tennessee prevented him from moving up to Double-A last season, but he should start there in '06.
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