As the 2017 season winds down, awards season is ramping up. Two accolades were handed out on Wednesday in the Detroit Tigers’ organization. Gregory Soto was named Pitcher of the Year, while outfielder Christin Stewart was named Player of the Year. Each made nice strides in 2017 with Soto being the far more surprising of the two.
Christin Stewart spent the entire season with the Double-A Erie SeaWolves. The Tigers selected him in the compensatory pick portion of the first round of the 2015 MLB draft. He’s been impressive with the stick in his two full seasons in the minors, making his season the less surprising of the two.
Stewart batted .256 on the year, and hit a league leading 28 home runs. A walk rate near 12 percent gave evidence of his advanced plate discipline. However, a strike out rate approaching 30 percent speaks to the refinements still necessary against the breaking ball.
Soto, a hard throwing lefty who began the year in Single-A ball with the West Michigan Whitecaps was the real breakout performer in 2017. For over two months, the unheralded Dominican with a big fastball was nothing short of dominant. Promoted to the Advanced-A Lakeland Flying Tigers in early August, Soto didn’t miss a step. He finished the year with a 2.25 ERA across 124 innings of work, and struck out 144 batters to 65 walks.
Soto still has to make substantial progress in terms of his command, but his raw stuff has impressed scouts and prospect hounds alike. Presumably he’ll start next season in Lakeland, looking to refine his command and offspeed stuff before getting a crack at the Double-A jump.
Stewart’s lack of defensive ability means he’ll have to swing the bat well from the jump, so there’s little reason to rush him either. The Tigers will have to be convinced he’ll be productive at the plate. Still, he’s not far away. Considering the dearth of quality outfielders at the Triple-A level, it seems likely that he’ll start the 2018 season in Toledo, barring an eye-opening spring camp.
It’s perhaps notable that neither player is ranked in MLB Pipeline’s top 100. The Tigers have five prospects in the top 100—though Jeimar Candelario won’t be on the lists much longer—so the success of both Stewart and Soto speaks to the vastly improved depth and high end talent now present in the Tigers’ farm system.