Prior to the 2016 season, Brock Stewart was nowhere to be found on lists of the Dodgers top prospects done by MLB.com, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus. He wasn’t highly touted by Dodgers blogs either, as he was unranked at Dodger Blue, ranked at #61 on Dodgers Digest, and ranked at #36 by True Blue LA. And why not? After all, Stewart was a 24-year-old fourth-rounder about to start the year in high-A, and he was coming off a season in which he posted a 4.46 ERA in A-ball.
Yet here we sit on June 29, and the fact that Stewart is now hours away from making his MLB debut should give you an appreciation for just how rapid his ascent has been in 2016. Starting from high-A, he’s now been promoted three times this year thanks to a remarkable 1.47 ERA across all levels in 86 innings. Stewart has also struck out 99 and walked just 14 for a nice sub-2 FIP, so his numbers weren’t the result of balls finding gloves, and his promotions have been well deserved.
More important than any of the stats, though, is the progression of his stuff. Stewart’s pitches have all taken a step forward, and now he has a four-pitch mix with a sinker, cutter (or sharper slider), slider, and change, all of which have played up in the minors because of his ability to throw strikes. The sinker is 92-94 mph and has touched 96, and both the slider and change currently grade out as average, with the cutter/slider being the likely swing-and-miss offering in most cases.
Ideally, Stewart wouldn’t be thrown into the fire so quickly, but with the Dodgers rotation being decimated by injury, this promotion came about out of necessity more than anything else. And you know what? He should be fine as long as he sticks to what he’s been doing so far this year.
Stewart’s success or failure will likely depend on whether he can power past whatever nervousness he’ll be suffering from and find his fastball command. Everything he does works off throwing quality strikes with his fastball, so if he can find it early and get ahead of hitters, Stewart should be able to keep the Dodgers in the game at least. While I would caution against expecting anything spectacular like he has been showing in the minors thus far, as long as he doesn’t suffer random control issues I could see him being useful for the Dodgers at the back of the rotation immediately.
Thanks to Minor League Dodgers for the video clips!