(Photo Credit: milb.com)
As a player who wasn’t even on the radar of the Dodgers‘ prospects list at the beginning of 2016, pitcher Brock Stewart zipped through the Single-A scene and has now vaulted himself to the top of the Double-A Tulsa starting rotation.
Stewart was promoted to the Drillers from Rancho Cucamonga in April shortly after being named California League Pitcher of the Week, and now makes up one-quarter of the big four, which also includes Chase De Jong, Trevor Oaks and Scott Barlow, in what could be considered the top rotation in the entire Texas League.
Now having eight Double-A starts under his belt, the 24-year-old righty leads the club with a 1.09 ERA, a 1.22 FIP, a 0.79 WHIP and a 10.76 K/9 — not too shabby for a former infielder who switched to pitching his junior year in college.
With at least a handful of high profile pitching prospects ahead of him on the Dodgers’ depth chart, it’s somewhat difficult to find a reliable scouting report on Stewart anywhere online. However, the 2014 sixth-round draft pick took a few moments from his busy schedule and sat down with TBPC over the weekend to answer a few questions about himself.
Stewart credits his father, Jeff, who is now a scout in the Rays‘ organization, for introducing him to the game and for his endless encouragement on his path to success.
“My dad showed me the game of baseball. He was a college coach [at Kansas State and Illinois State], and now he’s a scout, so I’ve been around the game my whole life and I credit him for introducing me,” Stewart explained.
“He has been the most encouraging person throughout my whole career. He has shaped me into the player I was and am today. More importantly, he’s shown me how to act as a professional. Not a day goes by where we don’t talk on the phone. He’s my hero for sure.”
After graduating from Normal West High School in Normal, Illinois, Brock, the younger brother of one-time Mets‘ prospect Luke Stewart, was also chosen by the Mets in the 40th round of the 2010 draft. Yet instead of diving headfirst into a professional career at the age of 18, Stewart knew that he needed more time to develop, and enrolled at Illinois State University.
“I chose not to sign out of high school for a couple different reasons. I knew I needed to develop more before I went into professional ball where players are treated as men right from the get go. A lot of high school players fizzle out because of mental or physical immaturity, and I didn’t want to be one of them,” Stewart said.
During his first two years at Illinois State he played third base, but made the switch to pitching in his junior year at the request of pitching coach Bill Mohl, who recognized Stewart’s throwing potential.
Brock had been primarily a reliever in his junior season with the Redbirds, but made the transition to starting pitcher in his early days with the Ogden Raptors in 2014.
“Moving from a reliever to a starter wasn’t too tough for me at all. I like the five-day routine and knowing what I’m doing day in and day out. I also enjoyed coming out of the pen and helping my team, but as a starter it’s nice to get into a routine. I appreciate being the guy that sets the tempo of the game,” Stewart said.
“The biggest adjustment was probably the length of the outings. I had never thrown more than three innings at a time before I became a starter. But today I’ve become accustomed to it and I like seeing how far I can go into a game. I just want to put my team in a position to win.”
Last year, Stewart began the season with Low-A Great Lakes in the Midwest League, and after seven starts with a 2.84 ERA and 38 strikeouts over 38 innings, was promoted to High-A Rancho. Over 18 appearances, he finished the year with a 5.43 ERA and 1.476 WHIP for the Quakes in the hitter-friendly California League. Before being promoted to Tulsa, he began 2016 by going 2-0 while allowing one earned run with 10 strikeouts and two walks in 11 innings of work.
As for his pitching repertoire, Stewart explained he’s heavily dependent on his fastball, and focuses his efforts on getting ahead of batters while aggressively pounding the strike zone.
“I throw a four-seam and two-seam fastball. Of those two pitches I probably throw 85% four-seams. This year my fastball has been clocked up to 98 MPH, but I usually sit at 92-96 MPH,” Stewart clarified.
“As for offspeed stuff, I throw a changeup and a slider. Change is usually anywhere from 79-83 MPH and the slider anywhere from 83-87 MPH.”
When recalling his most influential teammates over the years, Brock listed the late Michael Collins, who was struck and killed by a drunk driver in 2014, as one of the prominent.
“I played with Michael from Little League ball all the way through high school. He was my middle infield partner. Michael loved the game so much and busted his behind every day. He was the most scrappy player on the field at any given point in time. His will to win was incredible and he wanted to dominate at all times. I try to emulate him in my game now, and I know he’s proud when looking down upon me,” Stewart said.
In regards to life outside of baseball, Brock is passionate about the outdoors and thoroughly enjoys spending time with friends and family.
“Outside of baseball I just love spending time with family and friends — they mean so much to me. I have a passion for fishing and being outdoors. I do some hunting with my dad and brothers, but mostly I stick to fishing. My ideal night would be fishing until dark and then sitting around a bonfire with friends.”
Considering his rapid progression at such an early point in his career, don’t be surprised to hear Stewart’s name surfacing on the top prospects list and being kicked around Camelback Ranch as an NRI come spring of 2017.
In the meantime, he’ll continue to focus on the present moment and strive to hone his craft while dominating almost every single Texas League hitter that steps into the batters box.