Name: Robert Joseph Side III
History: Joey Side is one heck of an athlete. He played catcher throughout Little League, then toggled between third base, closer, and the outfield in high school. He also excelled in high school football, both at the quarterback and wide receiver positions. This earned him several full-ride football scholarship offers around the country.
But Robert Joseph Side III always dreamed of being a Bulldog, and Georgia was offering Side a full ride to play baseball, not football. Credit Georgia's scouts, because Side led their baseball team in most offensive categories in each of the three years he played there, and helped guide those Bulldogs to the College World Series in 2006. He was a fan favorite throughout his college tenure, and a media favorite throughout postseason play.
Also credit the Diamondbacks' scouts, because the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees also pursued this kid during the 2006 draft, but Arizona was able to steal him away in the sixth round as their second position player selected overall.
"I'm very proud of that," Side declared regarding his high selection. "Especially to go with Arizona; they're one heck of a program. So to be the second position player [selected] is awesome."
"I'm really thrilled to be with them."
The Arizona Diamondbacks are thrilled to have him, as he brings a winner's mentality to the plate with every at bat. "The real emphasis with the Diamondbacks is to develop winners," professed one member of Diamondbacks management. Joey Side is first and foremost a winner, which makes him a perfect fit with the organization.
"That's one of the big reasons Arizona signed me," Side explained. "I'm always into the game. I want to win. That's my mentality: I have to win."
Batting and Power:
This obsession with winning ensures that Side never lets up during an at bat. "Mentality-wise, I get pissed off when I get out," he said. Even though his Yakima Bears had an extremely disappointing season, Side put together some pretty good numbers himself. He tied for the team lead in triples, finished second in doubles and runs scored, and wound up third in base hits.
Just as in other facets of the game, Side displays a focused aggressiveness at the plate. "He comes to the plate hacking," one scout told us. "He just wants to go out there and hit." That being said, he's not the kind of hitter that pitchers can exploit outside of the strike zone, as he takes walks that are given to him. Side has a definite intensity, but he is able to control it.
Power-wise, the Georgia Alum projects as more of a doubles and triples hitter than someone who bangs out home runs. He primarily hit second in the Bears' batting order, and that's probably a good fit for him.
Baserunning and Speed: Our scout told us that while Side has very good speed, he's not always the greatest baserunner. Sometimes his aggressiveness on the bases puts pressure on the defense, and other times it runs him into unnecessary outs. "He's automatically thinking two, maybe even three off the bat," informs the scout.
Generally, the Diamondbacks organization would prefer a player to err on the side of aggressiveness than to become passive on the field and fail to make a commitment. It's easier to pull back a player who is too aggressive than to jump start an emotionless slug, and in this way, Joey Side's development within the organization should be very fun to watch.
Defense: Side's plus speed and strong arm give him the tools that he needs to play any position in the outfield. "He's got enough talent to play center," our scout assured. But his aggressive style of play makes him stand out from the crop of talented outfield prospects in the organization. Side always has scrapes and bruises strewn about his body from diving after balls and crashing into walls. So far, he hasn't suffered a serious injury from any of these endeavors. Tools, aggressiveness, and durability. What more can you ask for from an outfielder defensively?
Prediction: It's no secret that the Diamondbacks organization is stocked with far more young outfield talent than any other organization around. While there would undoubtedly be several teams interested in acquiring Side from Arizona, his ability to play all three outfield positions makes him an ideal fourth outfielder for the team. His durability makes him a great insurance policy if a Justin Upton or a Carlos Gonzalez gets injured, and his attitude allows him to accept a utility role as long as it's one that helps his team win.
Major League Clone: Aaron Rowand
ETA: The Diamondbacks already have that young outfield in place, and Side still needs some time to fully harness his tools and his aggressive style of play. So there's no need to rush anything with Joey Side. But even though he was just drafted as a Junior last year, there's every reason to believe that his talent and his mentality will make him major league-ready in just a few years.
Read more from Keith Glab at BaseballEvolution.com