On rare occasion, I’ll interview a player and end up not writing about him — at least not right away — despite fully intending to. This happened with Brock Stewart, who will be making his major-league debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers later tonight.
Stewart was more of a project than a prospect when I talked to him last summer. A sixth-round pick in 2014 out of Illinois State University, the converted infielder was having his ups and downs pitching for Rancho Cucamonga in the High-A California League. But his potential was apparent. Not long after we spoke, it was speculated that Stewart would be part of the three-team, multi-player deal that sent Mat Latos to L.A.
After a sophomore season at Illinois State that saw him hit .330/.402/.496, Stewart thought he’d go on to be drafted as a position player. That changed late in his junior year. The Normal, Illinois, native was scuffling at the plate, and opening eyes in occasional appearances out of the bullpen. One of his coaches suggested that he focus more on pitching, and his father, a pro scout for the Padres (and now the Rays), agreed. Jeff Stewart told his son “a lot of scouts, myself included, think your arm is your best tool.”
The youngster was a little surprised — “I always thought I was going to be playing in the infield for a big-league team someday” — but he heeded the advice. As he put it, “You have to go with the flow, and for me, that flow was toward the mound.”
Stewart was working on his mechanics when we spoke, primarily his lower half. He told me his fastball was sitting 90-92 and had “touched 94 a few times.” He considered his changeup his “second-favorite pitch” and was “tinkering with a slurvy kind of thing that sometimes is sharp and sometimes just rolls in there a little bit.”
Tonight, Stewart will roll into Miller Park — the Dodgers are in Milwaukee — with a vastly-improved slider and a fastball that tops out at 96. As he told me last year: “My arm is strong and only getting stronger. I think I have a chance to pitch in the big leagues.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.