(Photo Credit: newsok.com)
Although the Dodgers‘ public relations department hasn’t yet made it official, it’s pretty safe to assume that right-handed pitching prospect Brock Stewart has landed safely in Milwaukee and will make his major league debut against the Brewers Wednesday evening.
As far as the Dodgers starting rotation goes, Stewart will be the ninth different starter used already this season, and the fourth to make his MLB debut.
The rise for the 24-year-old Illinois native in 2016 has been incredible. Last year, he began his campaign with Low-A Great Lakes and ended with High-A Rancho Cucamonga, throwing a total of 101 innings. This year, Stewart breezed his way through the California League with the Quakes, had a cup of coffee with the Double-A Tulsa Drillers, made a quick pit stop in Triple-A Oklahoma City, and is now slated to make his inaugural start for the Dodgers.
Over 14 games started across the three different levels of the farm this season, Stewart has compiled an 8-3 record with a 1.47 ERA, a .826 WHIP and a 10.4 K/9 in 86 innings of work. In three starts for OKC alone, he has fanned 27 batters in only 18-2/3 frames.
And it was only as recent as three years ago that he was a position player, patrolling the infield as the full-time third baseman for Illinois State University.
Stewart was flying so far under the radar that when we had the opportunity to sit down and interview him earlier this month, we jokingly asked him if he still took grounders at the hot corner on occasion, hardly imagining that he’d get a call to join the Dodgers’ rotation a little over three weeks later.
“No more infield practice at third, unfortunately. I always fool around with some guys when we have free time by rolling balls to each other and acting like position players,” Stewart said, smiling. “I think mostly all pitchers wish they were stud position players hitting bombs and making sick plays. I miss it, that’s for sure.”
So what can we expect from the 6’3″, 210-lb. righty when he takes the hill in his first career start on Wednesday?
All the folks here at TBPC are big fans of Stewart, so it goes without saying that our predictions are certainly biased. But unlike rookies Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling, and even Julio Urias to an extent, Stewart takes the form of a true power-pitcher, depending heavily on the four-seamer, at times cranking it up to 98 MPH when he needs a little extra gas.
Similar to Clayton Kershaw, he prefers to attack the strike zone, doing his best to stay ahead in counts and maintain his meticulous command, periodically using his newly polished slider as a weapon that hitters frequently like to chase. He also uses a straight change that continues to improve, as well as a two-seamer that provides a bit of variation in his breaking pitch arsenal.
There will be butterflies, of course, but depending on the approach of the Brewers’ hitters, and if Stewart is dialed into the strike zone, it could prove to be a winning formula for the rookie. More importantly, Dodgers’ management hopes to get plenty of innings from him in his debut, something that all the other pitchers not named Kershaw have struggled to accomplish for the majority of the year.
As far as the future of the Dodgers’ rotation, it appears as if Urias is nearing the limit of his predetermined innings ceiling, as the southpaw’s spot is likely to be taken by either Brandon McCarthy or Hyun-jin Ryu, with whoever returns first being the likeliest. Stewart could conceivably hold on to a spot until the rotation is back at full strength, unless he performs well enough as to where management faces a difficult decision to replace him.
In the meantime, it will be a slow and steady approach for Stewart, who will be pitching at Miller Park on Wednesday night — a middle-of-the-road venue in terms of being hitter friendly — and against a Brewers’ lineup lurking very much near the bottom of the National League’s team batting categories.