The Braves once again went with a high upside pitcher with their first round pick, this time taking one of the most projectable arms in the draft in right hander Carter Stewart. Stewart hails from Eau Gallie High School in Florida, and has pitched to a 6-4 record and a 0.91 ERA in high school this season. Stewart first turned the heads of the general baseball population with his performance in the Perfect Game showcase, when his wicked stuff drew more than its fair share of admiration. Stewart has since been closely followed by this writer and highly desired, and with the Braves pick of him eighth overall they got their man in the talented right hander. Stewart adds to an impressive group of pitchers in the Braves system, and has perhaps the highest ceiling among them. You can see out pre-draft report on Stewart here, now let’s go in depth on the young pitcher.
Stewart was considered a mid-to-late first round talent at the start of the season, but an uptick on his velocity from the low 90’s to now touching 98 has rocketed him up the draft boards. Stewart generates this velocity with little effort from his 6’6” frame, and at 200 lbs he has room to add weight and be able to sit more consistently in the upper 90’s with the pitch. The movement on the fastball is incredible, as he gets a great downward plane on the ball that makes it difficult to hit and shows above average arm side movement consistently. Stewart is already showing the ability to control the fastball to both sides of the plate, and his athleticism gives reason to believe that he will only improve with age.
Stewart’s go to pitch is his black magic curveball, featuring spin rates consistently above 3200 RPM. The spin rate on his pitch is actually better than any current major leaguer and makes this curveball potentially the best pitch in the draft. He throws the pitch on a true 12-6 plane and like his fastball it has seen a leap in velocity to the low-to-mid-80s. Stewart has consistently produced swings and misses from even top competition on the curveball, and for a pitch with such elite movement he does quite well to control the ball. Both of these top two pitches grade out at 70 FV, a rare combination from a high school pitcher
Carter Stewart and his 3500RPM curveball. pic.twitter.com/ta2tELinLt— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 14, 2017
Stewart’s clear third pitch is his changeup, and with his ridiculous curveball he’s never really had to use it. His athleticism and overall feel for pitching has given scouts reason to believe it should be at least an average pitch once he begins to develop it, but truthfully we don’t know what it will be. Let’s say the changeup does only reach to average, with the ability he has shown with his other two offering it doesn’t need to be more than a show pitch to keep batters off of his fastball. It will be the most important facet of Stewart’s development and will be of great focus early in his minor league career.
Mechanically there are good and bad points for Stewart which contribute to his overall profile and his command. As mentioned before his arm action is extremely easy, and his has a simple arm swing that he repeats well. This consistency will improve the deception and the command of all of his pitches and will make it much easier for him to stay healthy over a long period of time. The lower body has cause me some concern though, and will be much more instrumental in determining just how well his command will develop. His delivery is methodical, but there are a handful of jerks in there including a slight pause after his leg kick that do complicate things a bit. His landing point and his ability to keep his front side on a line has been inconsistent, and he hasn’t always been able to keep his hips at the proper point in their rotation through his delivery. Stewart is a fantastic athlete and has been able to overcome these problems so far in his career, but it will be important to watch the development of his mechanics throughout his early minor league days. This isn’t to say that Stewart’s mechanics are a problem, in fact if he is able to repeat them well it makes it harder for a hitter to time him up, he will just need to improve that repeatability. Stewart sometimes seems uncomfortable in the stretch and doesn’t repeat his mechanics as well nor does he show as much natural explosiveness, but he also doesn’t pitch from the stretch very often and as the spring went on his mechanics seemed to improve.
Carter is going to be buried in the system by a stack of great pitching prospects, and that is going to be the best thing for him. Stewart needs to improve his command, even though it’s been fine to this stage, and he’ll have plenty of time to develop into a top pitcher. There may not be a higher ceiling arm in this draft, and given the partiality towards prep arms Brian Bridges and his team is incredibly pleased to add such a talented arm to the system. It’s hard to tell if Stewart will be a player to develop quickly or not, though it seems that not all of the facets of pitchability, that command, and his ability to throw a third pitch are quite developed enough for him to blaze through a system like Mike Soroka has. Contrarily, he won’t be as slow to move as Touki Toussaint, who is his only real comparison in the system, and I expect Stewart to take a basic one level a year trajectory through the minor leagues. Stewart is the type of pitcher who could be a game changer in the system. With two double plus pitches he will absolutely have a spot as a late-inning reliever if he doesn’t pan out as expect, but if he develops as many expect we could be looking at one of the top pitchers in baseball. Stewart overall projects to be a number two or high number three starter, with the potential of developing into a prototypical ace. Stewart has the framework of being that type of pitcher with his electric fastball, workhorse body, and supreme athleticism. The development of that changeup will be his key point of emphasis, and given his arm actions and the natural movement he seems to get on any pitch he throws I am confident he will develop more than just an average changeup. If you want a player on the Braves to compare him to, he has a lot of similarities to Sean Newcomb (albeit from the right side), and should have even better command than Newk. The sky's the limit for Carter Stewart, I feel confident in stating that the Braves made the right selection to take him at 8th overall.