06/08/2004 8:16 PM ET
D-Backs complete draft efforts
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- As soon as the final player was taken Tuesday in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, the Diamondbacks draft room cleared out in a hurry.
And who could blame the scouts and scouting department employees for wanting to get a breath of fresh air after spending 12 hours during each of the past 14 days locked in that room analyzing thousands of prospective draft picks.
"You take a deep breath," Diamondbacks scouting director Mike Rizzo said moments after the draft ended. "We get after it pretty good in here. It's four months where our scouts are on the road and these guys are really sacrificing time with their families. It's gratifying when you end up getting guys that you want. Our staff is one of the best in baseball, the most hard-working and loyal guys you could ask for.
"To see the end result is nice."
The Diamondbacks drafted 50 players over the two days, 21 pitchers, 14 infielders, 11 outfielders and four catchers.
Arizona nabbed the top-rated position player in the draft when Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew fell to No. 15 in the first round, but the club was equally excited about getting Louisiana State outfielder Jon Zeringue with their second-round pick.
Though the Diamondbacks had gone into the draft with a plan to pick college pitching after taking three college sluggers with their first three selections last year, they still took Drew and Zeringue. The Diamondbacks followed up their first two picks by taking right-handed pitchers Garrett Mock (University of Houston) and Curtis Ohlendorf (Princeton).
"Even with all the bats that we took last year we still felt that Zeringue was a guy we couldn't pass up in the second round," Rizzo said.
After four solid drafts, Arizona had lots of flexibility this time around thanks to a farm system that did not have any glaring deficiencies that needed to be filled.
"We drafted the best player available right along," Rizzo said. "When it came to a point where we saw the talent wasn't quite what we wanted it to be, we went to a draft and follow route."
In keeping with Rizzo's philosophy, the Diamondbacks choose 41 college or junior college players.
That might not have been the case had the draft board shaken out different in the first round. With all the sandwich picks between the first and second rounds, the Diamondbacks didn't pick again after 15 until No. 36.
"We had a bunch of high school players in our top 60," Rizzo explained. "But most of them flew off the board before we got to 36. That's the problem. We lean a little bit towards the college guys anyway so they have to be a special type of high school guy for us to draft them so that limits the field a little more and then once you get past a certain round signability always comes into play especially if they have a chance to go to a major college."
Speaking of college players, the Diamondbacks picked a bunch with excellent academic pedigrees. Ohlendorf (Princeton), infielder Cesar Nicolas (Vanderbilt), Antoan Richardson (Vanderbilt), Dan Pohlman (Northwestern), Chris Carter (Stanford) and Arthur Hendricks (Harvard) were among those that excelled in the classroom as well as on the field.
Ohlendorf scored a 1,580 out of 1,600 on his SAT's, while Hendricks, a big-bodied third baseman, was both the Pitcher and Player of the Year in the Ivy League.
"That is part of our MO, we like those kind of guys," Rizzo said referring to players from good academic institutions. "There are very few players in the draft that are ready to go right to the big leagues. They need to be coached and our development people do a great job with guys who can absorb information and put that information into practice. It's no coincidence that we look at those kinds of schools. We've found those kind of guys do absorb and learn and are coachable."
One of the club's most interesting selections was outfielder Luis Lajara. The 19-year-old played in the Dominican Republic before moving with his family to the states.
"He's a good tools player that kind of fell through the cracks because he wasn't well known coming over to the states," Rizzo said. "He's an outfielder that can really hit. He's performed well over there in the Dominican."
According to Rizzo at least one Major League team tried to sign Lajara, but the commissioner's office ruled that he had to go through the draft.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.