• What Did The Twins Get In Kohl Stewart?

    Kohl Stewart deliver the pitchSince 2010 the Minnesota Twins starting rotation has had an average fastball velocity of 90 miles per hour, which has been the lowest in the American League. In that time, they have struck out the lowest percentage of hitters (14.8%), had the third-highest ERA (4.76) and second-highest contact rate (83.6%).

    In an effort to improve in these areas the Twins selected Kohl Stewart, a fireballer out of a Houston prep school whose skill set is projected to eventually help the rotation out of the lowly doldrums.

    Armed with a mid-90s fastball that touches 97, Stewart, a Texas A&M recruited quarterback, has mowed down Texas hitters for several years and has jumped up on scouts’ radars of late. With a decent frame to grow into, the 18-year-old right-hander grabbed the Twins’ attention enough to make him their fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft.

    Stewart knows that his mid-90s fastball is the centerpiece of his burgeoning repertoire. All pitchers know that they need to key everything off their fastballs. Some have better fastballs than others; Stewart is not the others. His fastball reaches 97 miles per hour – a velocity only a few arms are ever blessed with attaining. For the Twins, it's just Glen Perkins who is capable of reaching that speed.

    “There are days where you’re not going to have that pitch, but my fastball is a very comfortable pitch for me,” Stewart told reporters on his post-draft conference call. “I like to use both sides of the plate and work off my fastball. My slider is probably my second best pitch, with my curveball and changeup. I’m really comfortable throwing any pitch at any count.”

    Of course, velocity means nothing without movement or location but Stewart is working on that.

    Although Stewart says he feels comfortable throwing his fastball regularly and in any situation, it is the success of his secondary pitches that will help him become a starter in the major leagues. After all, two-pitch pitchers wind up in the bullpen – not the intended destination of a fourth overall selection. A starter needs three or more offerings in order to thrive. Currently, Stewart is a currently a two pitch pitcher. He has his plus-plus fastball and his plus-slider but he has also worked on developing a slower curve as well as a change-up. He has also tinkered with a sinker, something that keeps right-handers off-balanced.

    “My slider is more effective right now, just ‘cause I started throwing my curveball just this year. My changeup has definitely come around. I’ve thrown that a lot more in the last year. And, I even have a little bit of a sinker just to give me something else to go hard in on righties. The sinker has kind of come to fruition, just in the last couple of weeks -- just throwing bullpens and messing around with some things.”

    Overall, Stewart has clean and effortless mechanics. He does not possess any herky-jerky movement or any red flags like an inverted W arm action or any wasted lower-half motion that would put added stress on his suddenly valuable appendage. The mechanics, velocity and make-up are things that can be built upon.

    Stewart, however, admits that there is plenty he needs to work on in order to become a successful major league starter. His slider, for one, is an area of his game he would like to improve. Scouts have called it a “wipeout” slider – one that has a ton of glove-side run for him – but ultimately does not look that appetizing to right-handed hitters as it disappears over the left-handed batter’s box.

    “There’s a lot of things I need to develop. I need to work on throwing my slider inside to righties. Sometimes I let it get away, throw it too hard and it will go away to righties.”

    No doubt Stewart has a ton of promise but the fact he is a high school arm does not necessarily mean he will produce the kind of return on investment like the collegiate counterparts like Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray do. A 2010 study in the Wall Street Journal found that high school pitchers taken in the first round tended to command more of a bonus than their college brethren, who were also able to realize their potential much swiftly.

    That doesn’t mean Stewart has any more likelihood of becoming Todd Van Poppel or Dylan Bundy than it a found quarter on the ground will be up heads over tails. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan made it clear what they are looking for when they make a selection, and it has little to do with the current status or statistics. The scouts are looking for the skills, tools, body, competitiveness and attention that will project well for the draftee when they are 22 or 23 years old. The scouting department loves Stewart’s makeup and his athleticism. Those two qualities mean more long-term than his current talent alone.

    The Twins are investing in the long-term future with their number one pick. Stewart can potentially give them a front of the rotation arm that can miss bats which has been desperately needed in Minnesota for a long time.


    This article was originally published in blog: What Did The Twins Get In Kohl Stewart? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      Is he a legitimate 97 mph or will it settle into 89-90 like some other guys?
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by clutterheart View Post
      Is he a legitimate 97 mph or will it settle into 89-90 like some other guys?
      Guys that throw 97 settle in at 89-90? I guess its possible. More than likely he will site 93-95, which is still pretty good. We just need to wait until he gets into pro ball to see how those secondary pitches are developing.
    1. Turd Furgeson's Avatar
      Turd Furgeson -
      I haven't heard 97. Anyway, rarely does anyone sit at 97. There might be a couple starters in all of baseball that do that.

      He's young, has a good body and a good chance to add velocity later on. From what I've heard he sits at 90-94 and maybe that mean he can touch 97.

      Anyway, velocity provides a good basis to develop other pitches but I think people get a bit too inftuated with it. Stewart has the chance to develop a plus plus slider, I'm more interested in that.
    1. big dog's Avatar
      big dog -
      Pre-draft I was worried about him wanting to play football in college but the early interviews seem to make it pretty clear that he's planning on signing. Excellent news.
    1. ALessKosherScott's Avatar
      ALessKosherScott -
      Quote Originally Posted by clutterheart View Post
      Is he a legitimate 97 mph or will it settle into 89-90 like some other guys?
      Whenever a guy tops out at 97, it usually means he sits 92-94 when starting and 95 or so in relief.

      IMO, the best thing you can say about Stewart is that he was in no way, shape or form cloned from Brad Radke. He may be our next ace. He may flame out horribly in a fire of walks from here on out. But you need pitchers in the minors whom you can at least dream about being great.
    1. mgraves's Avatar
      mgraves -
      Quote Originally Posted by ALessKosherScott View Post
      Whenever a guy tops out at 97, it usually means he sits 92-94 when starting and 95 or so in relief.

      IMO, the best thing you can say about Stewart is that he was in no way, shape or form cloned from Brad Radke. He may be our next ace. He may flame out horribly in a fire of walks from here on out. But you need pitchers in the minors whom you can at least dream about being great.
      The Twins could very much use some Radke clones. They don't currently have any. In a lower K environment, Radke struck out about 5.5/9 and also induced weak contact (above average infield fly ratio combined with a greater number of flyballs, as well as a lower than average line drive rate, indicate an increased rate of weak contact) and possessed exceptional control. [Radke also had a career contact rate of 82% v average pitcher of 80%].

      None of the Twins' current staff have any of those qualities. Most of them are groundball pitchers with contact rates of 90% with better than average control.

      This is not to say anything negative about Stewart, who I am glad the Twins took. If Stewart develops as the Twins (and Twins Territory) hope he will be that Santana-type ace who can lead a rotation. A couple Radkes backing him up would make for a top of the line rotation.

      The Twins current rotation is made up of guys who could be the 4 or 5 guys on a rotation fronted by Santana/Radke. They just don't have any Santana/Radke guys.

      Radke has a better ERA+ than does Jack Morris (as well as greater career bWar and fWar, despite pitching fewer seasons). [I add this only to compare the alleged ace, Morris--who may get into the Hall of Fame, with Radke, who never will, and is most certainly a better pitcher in a more hitting friendly environment than Morris].
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      While Brad Radke was 1 of my favorite Twins players, he was no Ace....
      He was thrust into that role as most seasons we had nothing else....
    1. mgraves's Avatar
      mgraves -
      I don't recall saying he was an ace--although there were years he pitched like one. I merely said the alleged Radke clones drafted by the organization, are not.

      I did imply he was better than Jack Morris, but I said that because the numbers back up the claim.

      As an aside--one possible Radke clone, Kevin Slowey--who merely lacked Radke's mental toughness--has given up 21 runs in his last 22 1/3 innings (covering five starts). There is more to being a Radke clone than being a flyball pitcher with outstanding control.
    1. Bill Parker's Avatar
      Bill Parker -
      Quote Originally Posted by johnnydakota View Post
      While Brad Radke was 1 of my favorite Twins players, he was no Ace....
      He was thrust into that role as most seasons we had nothing else....
      Brad Radke was absolutely one of the best pitchers of his relatively short time (obviously not on the Maddux/Johnson/Clemens/Martinez level, but those guys are usually once-a-generation). So incredibly underrated. I wrote a whole book chapter about this, actually...
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Just finished watching a short scouting video on Kohl Stewart

      KOHL STEWART PROSPECT VIDEO, ST. PIUS X HIGH SCHOOL - YouTube

      His unusual velocity comes from a very efficient, tight rotation of his forearm as he turns his shoulders.

      As I watched the video, two other things stood out: First, he barely even flexes the knee of his drive leg. Talk about effortless, he's hardly using his thigh and calf muscles. Second, like a lot of young pitchers, Stewart is far more precise when he pitches from the stretch than from the windup. Frankly, from the windup right now he would have a terrible time walking batters, because he scatters pitches all around the zone.

      Kohl Stewart is extremely raw, like converting a shortstop with a great arm into a pitcher. However, unlike a typical shortstop, Stewart's delivery is almost magically efficient, like Matt Moore or Matt Harvey. High release point, steep downward plane, very low expenditure of energy to launch a baseball at 95mph. This means he could potentially throw a lot of pitches before he starts losing control through fatigue.

      So yeah, Kohl Stewart does project as an eventual starting pitcher, possibly a great one. But his greatness will come from learning how to be a pitcher in the Twins minor league system, because right now he's a thrower, and from the windup he'd walk about ten guys per game.
    1. mgraves's Avatar
      mgraves -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimbo92107 View Post
      Just finished watching a short scouting video on Kohl Stewart

      KOHL STEWART PROSPECT VIDEO, ST. PIUS X HIGH SCHOOL - YouTube

      His unusual velocity comes from a very efficient, tight rotation of his forearm as he turns his shoulders.

      As I watched the video, two other things stood out: First, he barely even flexes the knee of his drive leg. Talk about effortless, he's hardly using his thigh and calf muscles. Second, like a lot of young pitchers, Stewart is far more precise when he pitches from the stretch than from the windup. Frankly, from the windup right now he would have a terrible time walking batters, because he scatters pitches all around the zone.

      Kohl Stewart is extremely raw, like converting a shortstop with a great arm into a pitcher. However, unlike a typical shortstop, Stewart's delivery is almost magically efficient, like Matt Moore or Matt Harvey. High release point, steep downward plane, very low expenditure of energy to launch a baseball at 95mph. This means he could potentially throw a lot of pitches before he starts losing control through fatigue.

      So yeah, Kohl Stewart does project as an eventual starting pitcher, possibly a great one. But his greatness will come from learning how to be a pitcher in the Twins minor league system, because right now he's a thrower, and from the windup he'd walk about ten guys per game.
      The fact that he has a repeatable, efficient delivery is some of the best news about the guy. He wouldn't have been drafted fourth had he lacked the stuff, but the fact that he doesn't need his delivery fixed, or one that will lead to injuries is very reassuring.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      from what I've read, he will need it tweaked, but yes, he's not the injury risk that others are.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      If you were given a dollar for every pitcher in this draft described as having a fastball that sits at between 90-94 mph with a good hard slider, you would be approximately $967 richer. All this fixation on radar guns is comical.
    1. darin617's Avatar
      darin617 -
      The Twins first have to get him to agree to sign before you get your hopes up. I just hope they don't have to go over slot by too much to get it done.
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