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Christin Stewart - Are We Undervaluing This Powerful Prospect?

There’s an undeniable sense of pride that we get as fantasy managers from rostering that brand new stud or breakout star. Owning these tantalizing players makes up for those busts on your squad that you wish you had never even heard of before the season started. Drafting one of these letdowns is an ongoing headache as they bring pain and agony into checking the box scores. When we nail our breakout picks on draft-day, the common instinct is to brag among our peers every time our player hits a home run or makes an outstanding play on the field. Some of us take the high road on this matter and only boast on the inside, but either way you slice it, you can’t help that certain sense of self-gratification. When it comes to these flashy athletes, the more unrecognized, the better.

In 2019, Christin Stewart could be that guy you proudly hang your hat on as a fantasy owner. While the majority of eyes are on top hitting prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Eloy Jimenez, Stewart is entering early fantasy baseball drafts as a relative unknown. Failing to make marquee top prospects lists, the outfielder has put up big numbers and displayed an impressive skill set in the Detroit Tigers farm system. The two-time Tigers Minor League Player Of The Year has nothing left to prove in Triple-A and is ready to make an impact in the majors.

After getting a September call-up last season, Stewart made a seamless transition to major league pitching. With fantasy enthusiasts focusing attention on the football season and a destitute Tigers team not drawing much of a viewing crowd, he went nearly unnoticed during his Major League debut. It’s time to get acquainted with the recently turned 25-year-old.

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Minor League Skills

As a result of losing Max Scherzer to free-agency, Detroit selected Stewart with their first-round compensation pick in the 2015 MLB draft. What makes him so appealing as a batter is his astounding power and his innate ability to get on base. Starting his 2016 season in High-A, he crushed 24 homers in 104 games while posting an impressive .264/.403/.534 triple slash line. While the batting average isn’t necessarily jaw-dropping, his OBP was stellar, as a cool 16.7% BB% contributed to it. Stewart finished his 2016 at Double-A Erie, clubbing another six bombs in his 24 games for good measure.

The left-handed swinger followed up his 30-HR season with a strong encore performance with Erie in 2017. Belting another 28 bombs in 136 games, he did see his slash line take a dip to .256/.335/.501. A less patient approach at the plate was the main factor for this decline as he registered a 10.1% BB%, but still a respectable number. Graduating to Triple-A in 2018, Stewart balanced out his overall game. Cutting down on his strikeouts, he dropped his K% by over 4% from 2017 to a 20.7% K% in Toledo.

With this improvement, he also restored his patience when he saw his walks elevate back up to a 12.8% BB%. This 0.62 BB/K was very impressive for a power hitter seeing how the 2018 major league average was just 0.38 BB/K. Stewart wrapped up his season slashing .264/.364/.480 while tacking on another 23 big flys in 122 games. After earning a big league promotion, the time had come to see how he’d fare under the big league lights.


Major League Thrills

Stewart proved he wasn’t out of his element in his short stint with the Tigers. In his first career start on September 10, he collected his first big-league souvenir as he got a single off Justin Verlander. He continued to hit, getting a knock in nearly every one of his 16 starts finishing with a batting line close to his minor league pace (.267/.375/.417). The power numbers didn’t translate immediately, but on September 20, he launched not one, but two long balls into the Comerica Park bleachers as he capped a six-RBI performance. Not being overmatched by major league pitching, he continued his strong plate discipline numbers. Stewart paired his dynamite 13.9% BB% with an equally as attractive 18.1% K%. Already owning the solid plate discipline skills is a plus attribute for any young hitter beginning their career.

Although Stewart caught up to major league heat without issue, he faltered against breaking pitches with a 37.1% Whiff% and a .176 AVG. He did, however, clobber a slider for one of his home runs. Not being fooled by changeups, the Georgia native also knocked one of these into the stands as he hit all off-speed deliveries to a .417 AVG. Albeit these are small sample sizes, but Stewart transitioned to the majors as almost the identical player that he was in the minors.


Get Your 2019 Fills

With some maturation in strength and growth of knowledge that will come with experience, Stewart has the prepackaged power and on-base tools that can make him a sizeable threat in a big league lineup. We know that these tools are more than able to be sustained moving forward as they’ve continued to travel with Stewart at every professional stop. But what else can be expected from the overall game of the 6’0”, 205-pounder?

Stewart possesses decent speed, but don't count on stolen bases as he’s never eclipsed three thefts in a season before. His .262 lifetime batting average in the minor leagues remains a target for his major league production. Predominantly a pull hitter in the minors, it doesn’t bode well for a left-hander in the bigs with ball clubs enforcing the extreme defensive shifts. He did happen to hit the ball to the opposite field at a higher rate during his stint in Detroit which was good news for him. Whether it was just the small sample size to draw from or perhaps different coaching from the Tigers staff, it will be something to keep an eye on during spring training.

His line-drive rates from the farm levels are on par with the major league averages, as well as his hard-hit percentages. The youngster does hit the ball in the air more often though, with a mark in the 43% range over the last couple of seasons compared to the 2018 major league average of 35.4%. Stewart resembles the game of fellow left-hander Max Muncy. Not only do they match up physically to another, but Muncy also had a comparable minor league career slash line of .276/.382/.438. Carrying a bit more average and less slugging than Stewart, Muncy had eerily similar line-drive, hard-hit and pull rates in his minor league career. It took a bit longer for him to reach the majors at age 27, but we know the kind of numbers he put up in his first full year as a Dodger last year.

Stewart saw all of his 2018 starts with the Tigers batting in the second spot of the order. Moving forward to 2019, he is probable to remain in this spot as his on-base skills can only be matched by the heart of the order bats Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera. With no other true competition for outfield spots, he should spend every day as the regular left fielder as well. Remaining in the two-hole will undoubtedly be a tremendous boost to his overall counting stats. The strong ability to generate the free pass and good hitting prowess will put him in an excellent position to score runs with Castellanos and Cabrera behind him. The potential to be at least a 25 home run bat at this level helps out his RBI case, but his opportunities won't be as abundant with a weak bottom of the order that won’t turn much over to him. Continuing to keep his strikeouts in check is vital to maximizing his batting average as well as his ability to be able to beat the shift by hitting the ball to more than just the right side.

Currently, Stewart is being selected at an ADP of 362, right next to teammate Jeimer Candelario. This draft spot is very low-risk compared to Guerrero Jr. and Jimenez. Both of these players are going in the top 100 of some drafts, and they are uncertain to start the year with their big league teams. Although the ceiling isn’t quite as high for Stewart compared to these other young stars, the floor is similar in re-draft leagues. If you land the Tigers rookie this year, be the person who will be boasting, not the person that will be agonizing.

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