No. 46: Jake Stewart, OF
Jake Stewart was drafted in the 9th round by the Tigers in this past June's draft out of Stanford. He signed quickly, and moved directly to Class A Short Season-Connecticut, where he spent the majority of the season hitting at the top of the order and playing CF. He posted some very interesting numbers in his first professional season, namely that he had a sub par OPS of only .615 to go along with 66 strikeouts, but then also led the team in HR's and runs, while tying for the team lead in stolen bases. He was pegged as a very good athlete with some swing holes coming out of college, and the stats somewhat speak to that. You'll find most scouts not very high on Stewart due to the holes in his swing, which do limit his ceiling, but I find myself more of a fan of his than others, due to his athleticism and defensive prowess.
Stewart is a very physically impressive player, standing 6'2" and weighing about 200lbs, with a very athletic build. Defensively, he's very good. I'd give him a 60 grade on his defense in CF. He takes great routes to balls, has excellent natural instincts, and simply put: He's just smooth out there. His arm grades out as above average to most scouts from CF, helped out by a quick release and good accuracy. He stole 11 bases in 2012, which tied for the team lead, so he does run pretty well, but his speed plays better in the OF than on the base paths; at least for me. I could see him stealing 10-15 bases at the major league level, but he's not a "burner". His swing has some holes in it, as i alluded to above. From what I've seen, these holes include: A slight "hitch" in his hands when he's loading, which causes him to be late on increased velocity; his hands have a tendency to be long through the zone, which can cause him to be late on increased velocity as well as susceptible to inside pitches; and that, quite simply, his swing looks pretty mechanical/stiff. It just doesn't look very fluid or smooth. Think of how Justin Verlander's delivery looks when compared to someone with max effort, like Scherzer's used to be. That's how I see Stewart's swing: It's just full of effort and not very smooth/free. He shows good pop on balls that he does barrel up, which projects to at least average big league power, and good extra-base power. His defense, however, is what will carry him.
Stewart has the ceiling of a good 4th OF for me. Everyone likes to think of a 4th OF in the sense of someone who can hit but can't quite field the position well enough, but Stewart is the opposite. He'll be able to play all 3 OF positions at an above average to plus level, with some legitimate pop in his bat when he plays as well. The issue is that I don't see his swing ever projecting to hit well enough to start. Stewart will probably start 2013 at West Michigan, and it's believed that his D and overall polish could carry him through the system relatively quickly. I don't see him being ready to challenge for a roster spot until spring training 2015, but he could easily surprise if the bat comes along better than I project it to.