10. Kohl Stewart, RHP, 22 years old
One of the most highly regarded arms in the entire 2013 draft, the Minnesota Twins selected the hard-throwing Texan righty with the 4th overall selection in that year’s draft. Stewart was a two-sport star in high school, with a likely role as the future quarterback of Texas A&M in hand if he had chosen football instead of baseball.
While Stewart has been able to reach high levels with his velocity, he has really focused on his four-seam and two-seam fastball too much in his development, and while both are excellent pitches, to excel in the major leagues, secondary pitches are not just a suggestion.
It’s not that Stewart has poor secondary pitches. His slider is not a pitch to generate strikeouts, but it has hard downward break that generates a ton of ground balls. His curve has the ability to become a strikeout pitch with more refinement, but he really hasn’t used it enough to have that comfort level with it. His change in the past has shown primary link to his two-seam fastball with good late sink on the change. I’ve noted this year in watching that he’s been getting some arm side run on his change at times, and it seems it’s when he’s working more with his four-seam fastball, so he may be using a second change grip, and when he is really using the change well, he can generate strikeouts with the change.
Stewart may reach the majors before he really has harnessed his stuff altogether, which could be an interesting situation. I remember listening to a great interview with John Smoltz where he discussed getting to the majors and trusting only his fastball at the time against major league hitters. He developed his secondary stuff as he took lumps against big league hitters.
Stewart has the arm and the raw stuff that could play in that way as well, but he has jumped forward so quickly in his development and still not truly “struggled”. Yes, the strikeout rates aren’t ideal, but he’s been able to pitch around that at every level so far. If he can make it to the majors still learning to pitch, that could be something that says a lot for the growth he could still have as a major league pitcher. In other words, hope is not entirely lost in Stewart, though he hasn’t exactly developed into a polished form of what he could be yet.