For the third consecutive season, Christin Stewart is the Detroit Tigers’ minor league player of the year. The team announced Stewart as their 2018 winner on Thursday, along with lefthander Matt Hall, who was named the team’s minor league pitcher of the year.
Stewart, the No. 9 prospect in the system at our last update, was a consistent threat at the plate throughout the season at Triple-A Toledo. He hit .264/.364/.480 with 23 home runs in 522 plate appearances for the Mud Hens. This earned him a call to the big leagues following Toledo’s short playoff run. He collected his first major league hit off of former Tiger Justin Verlander on Monday. He is 3-for-12 with three walks in his first few games of MLB action.
A compensation round pick out of Tennessee back in 2015, Stewart is the Tigers’ best pure hitting prospect. He is projected to hit for above-average power at the MLB level by MLB Pipeline, who ranked him as the No. 6 prospect in the Tigers’ system. They graded his hit tool a tick below average (45), but praised his improvements over the past year in which he cut his strikeout rate despite moving up a rung on the minor league ladder.
Hall looked to be an afterthought in the system earlier this year, as the club moved him to the bullpen at Double-A Erie. He dominated in that role, posting a 2.48 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 36 1⁄3 innings, and eventually moved back to the rotation. While he only made four starts for the SeaWolves in 2018, he won three of them, and did not allow a run while striking out 26 in 21 1⁄3 frames.
Hall’s strong work in both roles earned him a promotion to Triple-A Toledo, where he kept on rolling. He made 10 starts for the Mud Hens, allowing a 2.67 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 57 1⁄3 innings. He also cut his walk rate after the jump to Triple-A, going from 10.9 percent with the SeaWolves to a more manageable 8.6 percent in Toledo. Hall was also recently recalled by the Tigers, but has yet to make his MLB debut.
The Tigers will likely use Hall out of the bullpen this September, but many wonder if he could still crack their starting rotation. Scouts have been impressed by his curveball — FanGraphs grades it as a true plus pitch — but his fastball sits in the high 80s and is a below-average pitch. His command is also below-average, leaving many to believe he will eventually transition into a bullpen role.