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  • TD Top Prospects: #4 Kohl Stewart

    The 2013 Draft is going to be judged almost completely on the ascension of pitcher Kohl Stewart. That’s as intriguing as a $4.5 million bet on a roulette ball, hopping red to black. So much reward. So much risk. So little control.

    The 100 Word Primer
    Stewart was last year’s first round draft choice, fourth overall. After signing with the Twins, his first couple of months as a professional did not disappoint. He had the mid-90s fastball. He struck out 24 guys (both as a reliever and as a starter) and walked only four in 20 innings. He made one start in the higher of the two rookie leagues, a level below A-ball.

    He’s high reward, high risk. The high risk is that he’s an 18-year-old pitcher – and there are lots of risks, both developmental and physical, associated with pitchers that young. On the other hand, it's hard to pass up someone with his upside and athleticism, either. They don't come along very often.

    200 Words Deeper
    The Twins have been criticized plenty for focusing on control pitchers without big arms, but with this draft pick (and the $4.5M price tag that went with it) they got the consensus highest upside arm in the draft. Stewart’s fastball supposedly works around 93 mph and can go as high as 97, and he’s still just 18 years old. That’s the good news.

    The better news is that it’s not his best pitch. Stewart’s slider moves at 80mph, has a hard, late break, and looks a lot like his fastball until it’s too late. And he has worked with a changeup and a curveball, too.

    But what really gets people excited is that he could become much, much better. He’s very athletic, turning down a scholarship to play quarterback at Texas A&M to sign with the Twins. He’s still considered a thrower instead of a pitcher – an athlete who has never really focused solely on baseball or the craft of pitching. To have someone already be so talented and also so raw – that’s the stuff daydreams are made of.

    Of course, it’s also the stuff of nightmares. Another word for “raw” is “crude”, which is how Keith Law described him in his prospect rankings this year.

    He still listed him as #76 overall, though.

    The 300 Word Question
    When does the roulette wheel stop?

    If you listen to Law, not very soon. Law posited that Stewart could be “a good five years away from the majors.” That would likely mean putting in a full year at Low-A Cedar Rapids this year. Then he would spend another year each at Fort Myers, New Britain and Rochester, as well as maybe a repeat year as he irons out some things a la Trevor May or Alex Meyer. Or – shudder – losing a year to an injury like Kyle Gibson or Alex Wimmers. That means waiting until 2018 or 2019. Ugh.

    I suspect that might induce a little grumbling for those interested in a more Kershawesome path to the majors. When the Dodgers drafted Clayton Kershaw seventh overall in 2006, they also started him in rookie leagues, just like the Twins did Stewart last year. And they started him the next year in Low-A, just like Stewart probably will this year.

    But that’s where things changed. After dominating Low A for 20 starts, Los Angeles promoted Kershaw straight to AA to end the season. The next years, he began the season in AA, made 11 starts, and was promoted to the majors as a 20-year-old.

    That’s super-aggressive for any team, let alone the Twins. If Stewart strikes out 134 batters in 97 innings like Kershaw did in the Midwest League, then maybe it’s worth some debate. But given the Twins history, Stewart’s initial condition and a healthy dose of caution, Law’s scenario is far more likely. Put the over/under at July of 2018 for now.

    And even that much optimism has me looking for wood to knock. The assumption implicit in that estimate is that he makes it at all, which is far from guaranteed. Don’t let it be said that the Twins are not willing to gamble when the opportunity presents itself.
    This article was originally published in blog: TD Top Prospects: #4 Kohl Stewart started by John Bonnes
    Comments 43 Comments
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Up to 6 years to begin (to only possibly) getting dividends on a high-end first round pick?

      For an athlete of this level?

      The fact that he wasn't a baseball-first guy was sold as a good thing.

      Something seems askew here with this transaction- definitely not the type of high-end pick in the Twins standard MO. I don't remember any discussion of this "crudeness" in his form leading up to, and right after, draft day- this whole deal now sounds a lot more speculative than last June. And a comp with Trevor May? By Trevor's own admission, he isn't the greatest athlete.

      Again, a truly great athlete like Stewart should respond more quickly to a training regimen than 6 years to refine and master his motion and strengthen his arm, especially if he already has 4 pitches in his repertiore to varying degrees of success and effectiveness. Let the grumbling begin.....and apparently, start looking for yet another high-upside arm next June
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Jim Callis in his Wednesday draft chat a month before the draft, said Stewart would be up by 2015. Who knows?
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      Jim Callis in his Wednesday draft chat a month before the draft, said Stewart would be up by 2015. Who knows?
      At this point, I'd settle for splitting the difference, but thanks for something more positive to dwell on.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      Jim Callis in his Wednesday draft chat a month before the draft, said Stewart would be up by 2015. Who knows?
      That is definitely tough to predict. I think the Twins will be cautious, given that he has basically never focused solely on baseball.

      Either way, I think this was a good pick by the Twins, your system can't ever have enough high-end starting pitching prospects and this is where I would rate him as far as our prospects go. If we add another this draft and only one turns out to be an ace, I will take it over low end position players who will be more immediate gratification.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      I'd guess Law wouldn't normally even rank a player in the top 100 if he truely thought they would take six years to make it. I suspect that his extended timeline prediction was at least in part due to his perception that the Twins are ultra-conservative with their players. In other words, would Law still be predicting six years if Stewart had been drafted by the Mets? Probably not.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      I'd guess Law wouldn't normally even rank a player in the top 100 if he truely thought they would take six years to make it. I suspect that his extended timeline prediction was at least in part due to his perception that the Twins are ultra-conservative with their players. In other words, would Law still be predicting six years if Stewart had been drafted by the Mets? Probably not.
      That is a good point. He would be up in 3 and guess who would criticize that? Keith Law.
    1. pierre75275's Avatar
      pierre75275 -
      It would be exciting to see him and Kolek going back to back in a few years wouldn't it?
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      I'd guess Law wouldn't normally even rank a player in the top 100 if he truely thought they would take six years to make it. I suspect that his extended timeline prediction was at least in part due to his perception that the Twins are ultra-conservative with their players. In other words, would Law still be predicting six years if Stewart had been drafted by the Mets? Probably not.
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      That is a good point. He would be up in 3 and guess who would criticize that? Keith Law.
      Excellent points, both.

      You could also look at it from another developmental perspective, the Rays drafted James Shields in the 16th round and it took 6 years for him to debut, which seems about right. Does anyone think they would have to tinker with a higher upside arm like Stewart for anywhere near that long?
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      I can't get too worked up over ETA projections for 18 year olds who haven't played a year of full-season baseball, yet.

      Go back a year ago. How many people were projecting Byron Buxton to be knocking on the MLB door by 2014? He obviously had potential, as the #2 pick in the draft, but there were questions due to his age and relatively little experience facing tough pitching in his rural HS. He had off the chart "tools" but we hadn't seen him use those tools for a full season. Now we have.

      This is a similarly telling season for Stewart. A year from now, we'll have a much better idea whether he's going to be a "one step at a time" prospect or whether his ascension will be more Kershaw-like.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I think that Stewart being a full-time baseball guy is very good news, but with any high school pick, there are risks, especially pitchers. Consider, he was shut down for the final two weeks of the season last year and didn't pitch in Instructs either due to the sore shoulder.

      Would there be any negative in him spending the spring in EST and then either getting two months in Cedar Rapids or Elizabethton, just to ease into the full time baseball thing? People worry too much about ETA. The key is to make him the best he can be and figuring out the best way for him to do that.

      I suspect he'll start in EST and move up to Cedar Rapids in May or so. He'll have to be on an innings limit. CR will likely have a 6-man rotation.

      But, when it comes to upside and talent, he's in the elite category. His upside is tremendous, but I personally think caution is a good thing. I still think he starts 2015 in Ft. Myers at 20 and could be up by 22. That's pretty young, pretty impressive. I think 2016 is somewhat realistic, and yet still very aggressive.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      I think that Stewart being a full-time baseball guy is very good news, but with any high school pick, there are risks, especially pitchers. Consider, he was shut down for the final two weeks of the season last year and didn't pitch in Instructs either due to the sore shoulder.

      Would there be any negative in him spending the spring in EST and then either getting two months in Cedar Rapids or Elizabethton, just to ease into the full time baseball thing? People worry too much about ETA. The key is to make him the best he can be and figuring out the best way for him to do that.

      I suspect he'll start in EST and move up to Cedar Rapids in May or so. He'll have to be on an innings limit. CR will likely have a 6-man rotation.

      But, when it comes to upside and talent, he's in the elite category. His upside is tremendous, but I personally think caution is a good thing. I still think he starts 2015 in Ft. Myers at 20 and could be up by 22. That's pretty young, pretty impressive. I think 2016 is somewhat realistic, and yet still very aggressive.
      Caution is one thing. What John was alluding to was quite another thing, as he was making Keith Law sound like somehow the Twins getting Stewart to the majors "before this decade is out" is akin to the enormous gamble that this country and John Kennedy took in attempting a landing on the Moon.

      I do prefer the prospect of a 2016 debut.... so I can come down from the ceiling now?
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      As Jim Crikket pointed out so eloquently... we don't have any idea at this point what he can become. let's see how he does in his first full season as a pro. I respect Law, but no one knows for sure, myself include. It's fun to read all kinds of opinions and we'll just see what happens.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      As Jim Crikket pointed out so eloquently... we don't have any idea at this point what he can become. let's see how he does in his first full season as a pro. I respect Law, but no one knows for sure, myself include. It's fun to read all kinds of opinions and we'll just see what happens.
      We also can't put too much stock in his rookie league numbers. Berrios had a 1.17 ERA and 49 K in 30 IP in rookie league. Then had a 3.99 ERA with basically a K per inning in low A. His K to BB went from 12.5 to 2.5. Certainly ripping up rookie league is better than not, but he was not the first pitcher to come back to reality in A ball.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      As Jim Crikket pointed out so eloquently...

      we don't have any idea at this point what he can become.

      let's see how he does in his first full season as a pro. I respect Law, but no one knows for sure, myself include. It's fun to read all kinds of opinions and we'll just see what happens.

      I would quibble a bit with this conclusion. We do have an idea of what he can become.....or the Twins wouldn't have taken a shot at him with such a lofty pick...... at this point, what we don't know is if he will become that potential Ace/#2 arm. I can live with that and with what we know about his background/makeup and still fairly anticipate a shorter development process than 6 years. Certainly, our expectations for a quicker return on investment with Stewart are reasonable, compared to say, another high upside arm like Louis Thorpe, with whom we can be far more comfortably patient over a longer time frame.
    1. markos's Avatar
      markos -
      Regarding the “a good five years away from the majors.” quote from Law, there is this little tidbit from Baseball America back in October:

      Closest To The Majors
      High School Players
      1. Kohl Stewart, rhp, Twins (1)
      2. Tyler Danish, rhp, White Sox (2)
      3. Hunter Harvey, rhp, Orioles (1)
      4. Austin Meadows, of, Pirates (1)
      5. Clint Frazier, of, Indians (1)

      http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft...draft-classes/

      I think the take home message here is that no one knows how quickly Stewart is going to progress.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      I would quibble a bit with this conclusion. We do have an idea of what he can become.....or the Twins wouldn't have taken a shot at him with such a lofty pick...... at this point, what we don't know is if he will become that potential Ace/#2 arm. I can live with that and with what we know about his background/makeup and still fairly anticipate a shorter development process than 6 years. Certainly, our expectations for a quicker return on investment with Stewart are reasonable, compared to say, another high upside arm like Louis Thorpe, with whom we can be far more comfortably patient over a longer time frame.

      Fair enough.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      If Stewart is a top prospect, I've ran some queries for high school pitchers and it would seem if he's going to be a 4+ WAR a year type of pitcher, he'll be up in 3.7 years or less. If he's going to be below 4 WAR it'll take longer than the 3.7 years. If he takes more than 6 years, he'll be lucky to put up 8 career WAR and would most likely be a reliever/spot starter. The 6 years also factors in lost time to injury (left it in as it often affects pitching performance). 3.7 years is May 2017 for those of your keeping track at home.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Very interesting. Maybe adjust a little for the fact that he has never been a full time pitcher, but good work.
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Quote Originally Posted by markos View Post
      Regarding the “a good five years away from the majors.” quote from Law, there is this little tidbit from Baseball America back in October:

      Closest To The Majors
      High School Players
      1. Kohl Stewart, rhp, Twins (1)
      2. Tyler Danish, rhp, White Sox (2)
      3. Hunter Harvey, rhp, Orioles (1)
      4. Austin Meadows, of, Pirates (1)
      5. Clint Frazier, of, Indians (1)

      http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft...draft-classes/

      I think the take home message here is that no one knows how quickly Stewart is going to progress.
      Not only BA but Law's ESPN draft covering partner Christopher Crawford said the same thing. I find it odd that Law suggested it would take that long.
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Quote Originally Posted by markos View Post
      Regarding the “a good five years away from the majors.” quote from Law, there is this little tidbit from Baseball America back in October:

      Closest To The Majors
      High School Players
      1. Kohl Stewart, rhp, Twins (1)
      2. Tyler Danish, rhp, White Sox (2)
      3. Hunter Harvey, rhp, Orioles (1)
      4. Austin Meadows, of, Pirates (1)
      5. Clint Frazier, of, Indians (1)

      http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft...draft-classes/

      I think the take home message here is that no one knows how quickly Stewart is going to progress.
      Not only BA but Law's ESPN draft covering partner Christopher Crawford said the same thing. I find it odd that Law suggested it would take that long.
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