06/05/2002 02:59 am ET
D-Backs nab SS with first pick
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
Diamondbacks round-by-round picks
PHOENIX -- Before taking a major step toward playing in the big leagues, the Arizona Diamondbacks' No. 1 draft pick went back to his roots.
"A couple of weeks ago I went to a Little League game because of all the pressures of the draft," said Sergio Santos, the polished Southern California shortstop who was the 27th overall pick. "I've been playing since I was three."
MATER DEI HS
Strong, athletic physique. Well-defined legs and arms. Body like Alex Rodriguez. Wide, balanced, open stance. Good bat speed, plus power potential. Major League arm with carry. Smart player, good instincts with sure hands. Anticipates well at shortstop.
The trip down memory lane paid off when Santos worked out for the world champs. "My workout went really well -- I was excited to be at Bank One Ballpark," he said. "I was a little nervous since I was the only one working out, but then again I remembered how simple the game was."
And that made the choice simple for the Diamondbacks.
"We got exactly who we wanted," said Arizona scouting director Rizzo of the highly prized prospect, a long-time star in the Santa Ana area who attended Mater Dei High School and lives in Hacienda Heights.
"We identified him a couple of years ago," said Rizzo. "He's been a star since he was a freshman. We saw him play many times, but the individual workout solidified him. We met his family and saw what kind of people they were. We fell in love with him after that."
Santos' prep stats reflect his aggressiveness and solid overall game. The right-hander hit .388 this season with eight homers, 33 hits, 33 runs scored and 33 RBIs.
He was also a member of the 2001 USA Junior National Team, hitting .286 with a home run, seven RBI and two stolen bases at the Junior Pan Am Championships in Cuba, where the team won a silver medal.
The teenager has been equated to Alex Rodriguez in body type and ability, and Santos takes it as the supreme compliment. "He's someone I've always looked up to. If he can do it, I can do it. He paved the way. I hope to be better than he is."
The infielder has great instincts for the game and has the potential to move to third with power. Aluminum to wood problems? Not this player. Santos has, like most California players, used wood bats extensively during summer leagues and while growing up.
The shortstop is expected to keep growing, and virtually could grow out of that infield role and eventually become a third baseman. "It doesn't matter," said Santos, adding he could play the outfield if necessary.
Santos is the first high school player selected by the Diamondbacks with their first pick in the draft since 1999 when they selected Cory Myers third overall. Arizona selected prep athletes with its initial pick in each of the franchise's first four drafts from 1996-99.
The teenager has the option of taking a full-ride scholarship to the University of Southern California -- right in his own back yard -- but apparently has his eyes set on professional baseball.
Rizzo noted the prospect is highly signable. "We won't overpay him and we won't lowball the salary either," said Rizzo.
Santos told reporters he would like to play again for the Junior National team one more time before heading to the minors. An upbeat kid, Santos has good makeup as a young man and strong family support, among the things that made the player an attractive pick.
Rich Draper covers the Diamondbacks for MLB.com. Ken Gurnick, MLB.com Dodgers reporter, contributed. This story was not subject to approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.