When Brock Stewart was chosen in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB Draft, not much was thought of the selection. He signed for $190,000 ($32,200 less than slot) in a money-saving draft pick for the Dodgers. He began his Illinois State tenure as a shortstop before transitioning to the mound as a reliever (one start in his college career). Now, he just might be one of the best Dodger pitching prospects in the system.
I ranked Stewart as the 61st-best prospect in the system heading into the season (88th in 2015) and had this to say about him:
“Drafted as a reliever, Stewart has taken to the rotation pretty well. No. 88 last year, Stewart was impressive for Great Lakes in 38 innings (38 strikeouts, 6 walks) before getting promoted to Rancho Cucamonga. He struggled a bit (as many pitchers do), but he still missed bats (23.0 K%) and limited his walks (6.4 BB%). He’ll likely end up in the bullpen, where his fastball could take a step forward. He’s one to keep an eye on.”
I’ll take a little credit for that last line, but my podcast co-host Jared Massey has been on Stewart since spring training. That’s his boy (not like Chris Reed was my boy, either).
Stewart, 24, has been a revelation this season. He began the season in High-A Rancho Cucamonga and was quickly promoted to Double-A Tulsa. He handle the Texas League with relative ease. He was then recently promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City due in part to injuries at the MLB level necessitating some guys from OKC getting to The Show (Mike Bolsinger, Julio Urias, etc.). It’d be one thing if he were doing these things as a reliever (as most expected), but he’s doing it as a starting pitcher.
Here are his stats across all three levels.
He hasn’t just been good this season … he has been dominant. It’s all thanks to a jump in his stuff. He has a fastball that used to be in the 88-92 MPH range with some sink. Now, he routinely sits in the 92-94 MPH range and touches 96 MPH, still with some sink. He backs it up with a potentially plus-changeup in the low-80s with good fade to lefties, and a slider that has flashed solid-average but trails the change when it comes to his secondary offerings. The most encouraging thing here is the fact he can command/control all three of his pitches, and has done so in his minor-league career.
Here are his pitches, courtesy of Casey Goldman.
Honestly, Stewart’s profile is eerily similar to that of Jose De Leon — plus-command, above-average velocity, plus-changeup, average or better slider. He hasn’t been pitching as long as De Leon, but everything about the profiles are hard to separate.
He’s a big kid at 6’3, 210 pounds, so he should be able to handle the rigors of a starting rotation, but this is just his second full season pitching. He threw 101 innings between Low-A Great Lakes and Rancho last season, and he’s already at 80 innings this year. There’s probably an innings limit on him, but I suspect the organization won’t be as cautious with Stewart as it has been with De Leon and Urias — for whatever reason.
Still, I’m not expecting Stewart to debut this season. His meteoric rise through the system has been something to marvel at, but a full season of development in the minors should help him as early as next season.
The Dodgers have pitchers still ahead of him on the depth chart (seeing as he isn’t even on the 40-man roster yet) — Bolsinger, Jharel Cotton, De Leon, Carlos Frias, Frankie Montas, Ross Stripling — but Stewart might end up being one of the two or three best pitchers from this crop of guys.
It’s great to see a mid-round draft pick have significant success in the minors. The lack of a full track record is a concern, but Stewart has been nothing short of amazing this season and has absolutely established himself as a legitimate prospect. He’ll definitely be in my midseason Top 30 update (due out around the All-Star break).