Christin Stewart was perhaps the most notable prospect to arrive for the Detroit Tigers in 2018. With a résumé that includes being named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year for three years running (2016-2018), as well as a track record of hitting for power and keeping a selective eye in the batter’s box, it’s easy enough to see why his arrival was so anticipated.
Throughout his minor league career, Stewart has dazzled fans with his ability to hit the ball hard, often at long distances, walloping 93 home runs over four minor league seasons. His batting average has never been high, but has consistently remained in the .255 to .265 range, largely due to higher strikeout numbers. Those numbers, in today’s league, are easier to stomach if a player is able to offset the swings and misses by reaching base and hitting for power. And those are both things of which Stewart is capable.
Stewart arrived in the major leagues on September 9, making his debut as a pinch-hitter and subsequently seeing regular action in left field for the remainder of the season. At the plate, Stewart gave a taste of what he had to offer, with his bread and butter coming in the form of good plate vision and ability to channel raw power into game situations. Some highlights include recording his first career hit, a single off of some schmo named Justin Verlander.
Also, here’s part a six RBI performance against the Kansas City Royals on September 20. This included his first two career home runs, making him the first Tigers player since Brent Clevlen in 2006 to record his first two home runs in the same game.
Defensively, Stewart was... well, not great. He didn’t cover ground incredibly well. It was not uncommon to see Stewart bouncing throws, including routine tosses to the cutoff man, if he even hit the cutoff man at all. His -4.2 UZR was below average and his -31.8 UZR/150 worse still — sample size caveats apply, of course. But going in, the Tigers organization and fans knew that Stewart would not give them Gold Glove-caliber defense.
At least there were some highlights from Stewart in left field.
Key stat: .375 on-base percentage
First, let us acknowledge that we are working with a minuscule sample size here, as Stewart only made 72 plate appearances in 17 games over the last few weeks of the season.
Stewart has never been one to hit for a lofty batting average, topping out at a .264 mark last season with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. However, he has consistently recorded an above-average on-base percentage as he has progressed through the minor leagues. His lowest OBP, .335, came during his 2017 season with the Double-A Erie SeaWolves. His walk rate in his short time in the majors this season, was 13.8 percent. He has carried over this ability to every level at which he has played, posting an average walk rate of 12.4 percent across all minor league levels.
You could see what led to these numbers just by watching Stewart when he stepped into the batter’s box. He looked poised and comfortable in most situations, seldom taking the big, hacking cuts that lead to nothing, as so many players of his age and inexperience do. Rather, he would see pitches that were close, but not close enough to make an offer, letting them pass into the catcher’s mitt. He was even able to do this in higher leverage situations, such as full counts. This discerning eye led to him drawing walks — 10 of them in his 72 plate appearances, to be exact. If these small glimpses are to be taken any indication of his future, Tigers fans will like what they see from him.
What grade would you give Christin Stewart’s performance in 2018?
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