According to MLB.com, the Orioles have nine position players within their top 30 prospects. Now, these rankings do not include the 2015 draft class, but it seems pretty obvious that the Birds are sorely lacking in developing their own home-grown offensive talent.
The names of those nine: Christian Walker, Chance Sisco, Mike Yastrezemski, Jomar Reyes, Drew Dosch, Jonah Heim, Adrian Marin, Josh Hart, Trey Mancini. While there are some on there that are having very nice seasons, the only player amongst this group that is truly raking is Mancini.
That lack of future firepower is why the Orioles took D.J. Stewart, an outfielder from Florida State University, with their first pick in June's amateur draft. College players are expected to rise through the ranks quickly and become valuable members of a Major League team much sooner than their high school or amateur free agent counterparts.
Well, things aren't going so hot for Stewart thus far, who is currently playing ball with the short-season-A Aberdeen IronBirds. If you haven't been paying attention, through 15 games and 55 at-bats, the left-handed hitting Stewart boasts a slash line of .164/.250/.382. When you consider how bad his batting average is, his on-base and slugging percentages are actually kind of impressive. And as of very recently, he has begun to pick up the pace, going 3-for-7 over the past two games with two home runs, three runs scored and one RBI.
In the field, he seems to be OK. I mean, he is definitely not fast, but he hasn't made any errors out there and he is certainly not costing the IronBirds any games with his glove. However, many, like Baseball Prospectus' Tucker Blair, are not quite convinced.
First impression of #Orioles DJ Stewart; I would be shocked if he's a long term LF; short, thick body; he's going to need to rake
— Tucker Blair (@TuckerBlairON) July 3, 2015
Personally, I have been able to see Stewart play a handful of times live this summer. Everything that was said about him following the draft has held true. He has a lot of power and hits the ball as far as anyone in batting practice. However, he also squats extremely low when waiting for a pitch. I would have to think that the Orioles will allow him to do things his way this summer, but the offseason may call for a change of approach if these numbers continue on. It's not like he isn't hitting the ball. He's making contact and putting it in play, it's just not going anywhere.
But what do I matter? Take it from the lips of his future boss. On Friday, manager Buck Showalter attended an IronBirds game. Afterwards, he told the Baltimore Sun that "(Stewart) has a chance to hit. I like his selectivity. He should have had three hits that night and had none. Some guys are just taking pitches because they are in 'take mode', but you can tell he recognizes pitches...He defended himself well in the outfield. He's strong, a strong kid. He keeps his bat in the zone a long time."
Man, Buck knows how to talk a guy off a ledge. I'm sitting here freaking about the 21-year-old's abysmal batting average and then Mr. Showalter gets me all excited about "selectivity." But that is a good point to make as Stewart has walked seven times and struck out eight times over 55 at-bats in 2015. That is a skill that should translate to all other levels of professional baseball.
Impatience with young talent is a product of how ridiculously good some of the early-20-somethings have been in baseball recently. The Orioles own Manny Machado made it to the Bigs as a 19-year-old. Add him to Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and you may have three of the top 10 players in the world. Trout is the oldest of the group at a robust 23 years of age. As a 22-year-old myself, I feel as though I have done something wrong in life. Although, I do have a college degree, so that's something.
I'm not going out on a limb to say that Stewart will likely never be in that class of baseball player. He is not the athlete that all three of those players are, but he has a chance to be a productive bat in Baltimore one day. He will just need more than a season or two down on the farm, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Thanks for reading! Let me know when you expect to see D.J. Stewart in an Orioles uniform down in the poll as well as the comments section, or feel free to tweet me anytime @_TyYoung. And follow the blog @CamdenChat for all things related to the Baltimore Orioles.