Monday, February 15, 2016

From the Prospect Handbook: Kohl Stewart

Kohl Stewart was the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft, a right-handed pitcher out of a Texas high school who was also a highly-regarded football recruit (a quarterback who had committed to Texas A&M.)

Baseball America rated him the Twins No. 4 prospect heading into spring training 2014 and again last year. This time, he's No. 8, and BA left him out of its Top 100 list, which was released Friday night (he was No. 52 in 2015).

It's not difficult to see the reason for this fade in status in his stats. Last year, in High A ball (Fort Myers of the Florida State League) Stewart saw his walk rate rise to 3.1 per nine inning and his strikeout rate decline to 4.9 per nine innings. These are not good numbers.

That's scouting the stat line. Stewart's stuff is better than his results so far. Indeed, there are some positives in his numbers, particularly the two home runs allowed all season. True, the FSL is known to suppress power numbers, and the Fort Myers park is particularly difficult for long balls, but two taters in 128 innings ain't bad at all, and he allowed just two homers in 2014 as well.

Stewart still has a four-seamer in the upper 90s, still gets a lot of grounders with his hard two-seamer, still has a curve and slider that Mike Berardino's Handbook write-up describes as "reliable weapons." So far he looks like a reincarnation of Nick Blackburn, and that certainly wasn't the hope or expectation when they drafted him so prominently.

Berardino's writeup concludes:

Stewart should open 2016 atop the rotation at Double-A Chattanooga, The hope is that he'll start to miss more bats as he learns more about pitch sequencing, but he profiles as a mid-rotation starter at best.
A mid-rotation starter is not to be sneered at, but he wasn't drafted with that as the goal.

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