Mustangs' No. 1 draft pick used to dealing with expectations
By MIKE SCHERTING
Of The Gazette Staff
Comparisons in baseball are inevitable. Who's the next Mantle? The next Aaron or Seaver? When Drew Stubbs trots out to his position in center field tonight in the Billings Mustangs season opener, he knows there'll be a stadium full of fans wondering if he's the next Carlos Beltran, as some say, or maybe the next Austin Kearns, who roamed the same Cobb Field outfield in 1998.
Checking on Stubbs
Stubbs is also aware that the Reds draftniks will be checking Web sites for Mustangs box scores to see how the team's No. 1 selection is doing in Billings.
Knowing all that, the weight from other's expectations doesn't seem to bother the all-American outfielder. Playing three seasons at the University of Texas, a perennial college baseball power, has a way of getting a guy used to outside pressures.
Under the microscope
"I played pretty much in the limelight down there in Austin and you're under the microscope the whole time," said Stubbs, who helped the Longhorns win the College World Series last year. "You've got a lot of pressure on you to win games and do well down there. So playing pro ball won't be anything new to me. I'm very used to being in this situation and it's another game on the field for me." The hopes are definitely high for Stubbs, who was selected eight overall in the baseball draft earlier this month.
His accolades are many -- he was named an all-American after his sophomore and junior seasons and was a freshman all-American in 2004, the same year he was a member of the USA Baseball National team -- and his stats are impressive. This past season, his junior year at Texas, he hit .342 with 12 home runs and 26 steals in 62 games. He had 83 hits, scored 65 runs and had an on-base percentage of .439.
Scouts rave about his defense, saying he's big-league ready, and he was recently timed at a Mustangs workout running from home to first base in 4.09 seconds on a ground ball. That's above average for a right-handed hitter. And we're not forgetting his numerous placements on all-academic teams: Stubbs carried a 3.6 grade point average while studying business management at Texas.
There is one knock on the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder, and that's that his strikeouts are too high.
"He played 205 games in college and he struck out 204 times, but, you know what, he still put up numbers every year and was second-team all-American this year," Mustangs manager Rick Burleson said. "Sometimes that's a little deceiving, a strikeout a game. He's learning, he's a young man, and once he gets his (strike) zone down, he's going to be right up there with the Austin Kearn's-type draft pick."
There you go. Another comparison.
"It's a nice compliment to you to be compared to some of those guys who are successful big-leaguers, but I don't necessarily try to model my game after one particular guy," Stubbs said. "I know what my strengths are and try to use those to the best of my ability. The things that I do well I try to accentuate them on the field."
Top pick Stubbs hitting 3rd
Drew Stubbs, the Reds' No. 1 selection from the University of Texas, will bat third and play center field in manager Rick Burleson's season-opening lineup tonight against the Great Falls White Sox.
Billy Rojo, who hit .274 with the Gulf Coast League Reds last season, will play second base and bat lead-off for the Mustangs, while shortstop Yoni Lasso, who played briefly in Billings last season, bats second.
Following Stubbs in the lineup and batting clean-up is first baseman Logan Parker, a 12th-round pick out of the University of Cincinnati. Then it's third baseman Jason Louwsma (29th round, Florida Gulf Coast), Michael McKennon (25th round, Texas-San Antonio), designated hitter Angel Colon (.255 with the GCL Reds last year), left fielder Chris Heisey (17th round, Messiah College) or Maikol Mesa (.250 with GCL Reds last year) and then catcher Justin Tordi (41st round from Florida in 2005).
Daniel Guerrero, a 6-foot-1 right-hander, will be on the mound tonight for the Mustangs. Guerrero was signed as a free agent out of Tecuala, Mexico, last year and he went 2-1 with a 3.08 ERA in 14 games for the Reds' Venezuelan Summer League team.
"I think things have gone well," Burleson said of his team's workouts heading into tonight's Pioneer League opener. "I think it's a very good group of young athletes, I really do. I'm expecting some good things from this club."
Great Falls, which is managed by Bobby Tolan, who played for the Cincinnati Reds from 1969-73, will feature catcher Tyler Reves, a fourth-round pick from Texas Tech, and second baseman John Shelby III, a fifth-round pick from Kentucky.
Pitcher Kyle McCulloch, a teammate of the Mustangs' Stubbs at the University of Texas, was the No. 1 pick for the White Sox but he hasn't been added to the Great Falls roster yet and likely won't be in Billings.