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Christin Stewart's bat will be a main attraction in 2016

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Stewart's bat will be his calling card during his ascent through the minor leagues, but how high will he go in 2016?

Emily Waldon / Bless You Boys

Prior to the Detroit Tigers' selection of Derek Hill as their number one man in the 2014 MLB amateur draft, they had not chosen an outfielder as their top pick since nabbing Brandon Hamilton (who?) in 2007. Now, they're on a roll. For the second consecutive year, Detroit carried the same formula by buying stock in University of Tennessee junior outfielder Christin Stewart.

In his three years with the Volunteers program, the 6'0, 205 pound concrete lefty took no time to solidify himself as a force at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI in his freshman debut with the Vols. After combining for eight home runs in his first two collegiate seasons, Stewart went on to punch 15 long balls during his junior year with an 18.5 strikeout percentage and .322 ISO. He finished his career a .319/.414/.548 hitter with the Volunteers.

Stewart picked up right where he left off after draft day, hitting .285/.372/.508 with 10 home runs in 71 minor league games.

Prospect rankings
Baseball Prospectus Baseball America MLB.com TigsTown FanGraphs Minor League Ball
Team: #5
MLB: NR
Team: #4
MLB: NR
Team: #8
MLB: NR
Team: #4
MLB: NR
Team: #2
MLB: NR
Team: #2
MLB: NR
Strengths

Ranked as the Tigers' No. 4 prospect by Baseball America, you only have to watch a few at-bats for Stewart to show off what he brings to the table. Sitting back on each pitch, with most of his height in his legs, he maintains the ability to execute solid rotation is his broad-shouldered upper body with plus bat speed, combined with strong arm extension in the follow through of his swing.

Daren Willman, Director of Research and Development for MLB.com gathered a telling image, regarding Stewart's strongest offensive locations.


In the simplest terms, Stewart embodies a raw plus power, that, as Chris Crawford from Baseball Prospectus shares, draws comparison to another hard-hitting Tigers' minor league outfielder.

"Stewart is the best power hitting prospect in the system if you don't count Steven Moya, and while that's not saying a lot, there's plus raw power in his left-handed bat."

The Tigers do have a rather thin farm system as far as power bats go, but Stewart's in-game power plays up better than Moya's because of a much more impressive hit tool. TigsTown's Mark Anderson noted that Stewart has above-average potential (with above-average in-game power) and is "an aggressive hitter that likes to swing the bat and displays good bat speed."

After hitting .364/.462/.682 in his first professional round with the Gulf Coast League Tigers, Stewart faded slightly to hitting .245 in his promotion to Short-Season Connecticut, but regained his footing with Low-A West Michigan after adding 31 RBI to a .206 ISO, hitting .286/.375/.492.

Weaknesses

While Stewart has displayed patience in his brief time in the Tigers' minor league system -- he drew 26 walks in 301 plate appearances last year, a solid 8.6 percent walk rate -- he still needs fine-tuning. Crawford noted this when describing Stewart's approach to attacking opposing pitchers.

"He showed decent patience at the plate, but he still tries to pull too many balls which hurts his overall hit tool. He's also a below-average runner with a fringe-average throwing arm so that limits him to left field. The bat should play there, but it puts quite a bit of pressure on it."

At the collegiate level, Stewart maintained roughly an 18.0 strikeout percentage. That rate jumped in his brief time at the professional level, but there aren't too many worries about his ability to make consistent contact (a la Moya). Like most prototypical power hitters, he still may strike out more than the average hitter.

Then there's the defense. Stewart is all but limited to left field defensively thanks to an average throwing arm and below-average foot speed. He doesn't project to get much better in this regard, though should improve a bit with professional instruction. It shouldn't be a hindrance -- if he hits, he will play somewhere -- but it limits his overall upside.

Evaluation: Ben Badler, Baseball America

"Stewart has big raw power with the ability to go deep to any part of the field. Based on his scouting reports and performance out of college, I expected him to swing and miss more in pro ball, but his pro debut last year was encouraging and he was able to keep the strikeouts to a reasonable level. The home runs are always going to come with some whiffs for Stewart, but if he can maintain the contact rate he showed last year, the power will play and give him a chance to be an everyday corner outfielder in the next few years."

Projected team: Advanced-A Lakeland

The question isn't whether Stewart will get promoted, the question is how fast. Advanced college bats like Stewart typically tear through the lower minors, but can sometimes hit a speed bump between High-A and Double-A. Stewart's numbers were impressive enough in a short stint at West Michigan that he will move up to start the 2016 season, and he could end up in Erie by summer time if all goes well. The defense will need work at every stop, but it won't hold him back if he continues to mash.

★★★

Note: We're changing up our prospect coverage a bit this year. Instead of an "official" ranking of the best prospects in the system, we're going to profile those that are most interesting to us (and you too, hopefully). Don't worry, no one has been fired, and daily recaps will still happen during the season. We appreciate any constructive feedback you offer, and we'll take your prospect suggestions into account as well.