Stewart might have a final chance to impress Orioles - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Stewart might have a final chance to impress Orioles

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

 

DJ Stewart got his most extensive playing time in the major leagues in 2021 before his season ended in September because of a right knee injury that required surgery.

Stewart was the Orioles’ top draft choice in 2015, the 25th pick overall, but he’s yet to fulfill expectations.

As an outfielder, his defense is weak. He had a -1.3 Defensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) this season and made four errors in 72 games in left and right field.

At bat, Stewart has demonstrated a discerning eye and a poor average. His batting average was .204 this past season. In his four-year career, he has hit .214. But his lifetime on-base percentage is .329 because of his propensity to walk. In 2021, Stewart walked 44 times and struck out 89 times. He also hit 12 home runs.

If you combine the so-called “three true outcomes,” walks, strikeouts and home runs, Stewart had one of them in 45.6 percent of his plate appearances, a high number.

Perhaps the highlight of Stewart’s time with the Orioles came from September 5th-11th, 2020 when he hit six home runs in six games, raising his batting average to .278. His average plummeted to .193 when he finished the season in a 7-for-52 slump.

Stewart never got going this past season. His best power months came in May when he hit four homers and drove in 10 runs, hitting .220 with an .800 OPS, and in August when he hit four homers with seven RBIs, hitting .205 with a .931 OPS.

There doesn’t appear to be a place for Stewart to play regularly for the Orioles. With Cedric Mullins in center, Austin Hays in left and Anthony Santander in right, Ryan Mountcastle at first base and Trey Mancini at designated hitter, the team seems set at those positions.

Ryan McKenna, who spent much of the season with the team, filled a useful role as a fourth outfielder, defensive specialist and pinch-runner.

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With the exception of Santander, who was a Rule 5 draft pick in 2016, all of the players are products of the Orioles’ farm system.

Stewart’s time with the Orioles has been disappointing, but it might not be over. He’s not eligible for arbitration and, unless the Orioles sign someone from the outside, there might still be a roster spot for him.

The best outfield prospect is Kyle Stowers, whose stint for the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League ended over the weekend when the club announced he had a lower back injury and went home to rest and prepare for spring training.

Stowers hit 27 home runs, drove in 85 runs and had a .278 average and .897 OPS at High-A Aberdeen, Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. He played just 22 games with the Tides and is likely to return there to begin 2022.

The Orioles hoped that outfielder Yusniel Diaz would be in the major leagues by now, but after an awful 2021 season, he, too, was sent to the Arizona Fall League to regain his hitting stroke. Diaz hit a combined .161 at Norfolk and Bowie.

The Orioles could add Robert Neustrom, their fifth-round draft pick in 2018 to the 40-man roster next month, but he’s hardly a finished product. Neustrom, like Stewart, is a left-handed hitter. In his 64 games with Norfolk, Neustrom hit just .232 with nine home runs and 33 RBIs. He had a .748 OPS.

Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias has avoided signing veteran outfielders, spending his energy on pitching and infielders. Instead of free-agent outfielders, Elias has drafted them in the early rounds, with Stowers (2019) and the last two top picks, Heston Kjerstad in 2020 and Colton Cowser in 2021.

Kjerstad whose debut has been delayed by myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, is in Sarasota, Florida, working in the Fall Instructional League Camp. The team hopes he’ll be ready to play for an affiliate next year.

Cowser, who’s also in Sarasota, had a strong start to his pro career — .347, 1 home run, 26 RBIs and a .904 OPS in 25 games for Low-A Delmarva.

If the Orioles made Stewart available, there probably would be interest because of his power potential and on-base ability. If Stewart returns, he’ll probably have a final chance to prove his worth to the Orioles.

Notes: Cedric Mullins is one of eight American League outfield finalists for the Silver Slugger Award. … Each of the four players assigned to Triple-A Norfolk last week — pitchers Thomas Eshelman and Konner Wade, infielder Pat Valaika and catcher Austin Wynns — has elected to file for free agency instead of accepting an outright assignment. The 40-man roster has 35 players.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

55 Comments

55 Comments

  1. ptjhu

    October 26, 2021 at 7:13 am

    Reading your article. Rich, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to bring Stewart back — other than he was a 1st round selection.

    • CalsPals

      October 26, 2021 at 7:43 am

      Agree, investment…go O’s…

    • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

      October 26, 2021 at 7:48 am

      Stewart has a career OBP of 0.329 and his career OPS+ is 97, 3% below average – O’s OPS+ as a team was 90 in 2021. There seems to be some hope Stewart will develop into an above average offensive player. He’s not eligible for arbitration until after the 2023 season. Bring him back and hope he improves some in 2022.

  2. Bhoffman1

    October 26, 2021 at 7:43 am

    So many O’s blossom on other clubs. If Steward is let go and picked up he won’t be one of them. Now Evan Philips I knew all along could pitch.

    • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

      October 26, 2021 at 7:50 am

      Your crystal ball never lets you down!

  3. OriolesNumber1Fan

    October 26, 2021 at 7:49 am

    Sending Stewart down to Norfolk could also block other players from playing and a promotion for others. My opinion would be if the National League adopts the DH with the new CBA, then package him and someone else in a trade for a decent 3rd or 4th starter!

    And with regards to your previous article: Again, so the “Cheaters” beat the “Tankers” and the insensitive chanting Braves beat the highest spending – the most injured Dodgers to go to the World Series. Thank God for the NFL, NBA and NHL!!!

    • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

      October 26, 2021 at 7:54 am

      The Debbie Downer post we all needed this morning…

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        October 26, 2021 at 8:29 am

        No “Downer” just a realist. You can start YOUR team and build around him!!! And trading an asset or 2 from a position of strength/excess for another asset the Orioles need is not a “Downer” either!!!

      • NormOs

        October 26, 2021 at 8:55 am

        Hey Hummer, you ever say anything positive about anyone on here? I’m afraid all your negativity is really getting old. Lighten up!

        • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

          October 26, 2021 at 2:26 pm

          Hi Norm, yup I’ve said lots of positive stuff about lots of people’s comments here. Sorry you don’t like me characterizing O#1F’s comment as a Debbie Downer comment. O#1F’s comment definitely put the “mwwaant waant waant” on the O’s doing anything with Stewart and also a follow up “mwwaant waant waant” on all things MLB postseason 2021. It’s my self-appointed job to point out excessive hyperbole and unsubstantiated negativity here at BB and I am darn good at it, you could at least show the appropriate appreciation. Thanks!

          • OriolesNumber1Fan

            October 27, 2021 at 5:14 pm

            I told you what the Orioles should do with Stewart, they should trade him! And again, there’s no “Downer” here, just a smart team management move, period! By trading an asset from a position of strength, which is outfield depth and maybe another asset, for a position of need, which for the Orioles, is starting pitching!!!

        • VegasOriole

          October 27, 2021 at 5:27 pm

          Agree. Lighten up, always attacking others posts. Focus on yourself.

          • OriolesNumber1Fan

            October 28, 2021 at 8:39 am

            Didn’t “Attack” anyone here. Just stated my side of things. Attacking someone starts with name calling and you have me confused with others.

    • Orial

      October 26, 2021 at 10:14 am

      “Insensitive”–now THAT’S funny.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 26, 2021 at 1:58 pm

        I think he’s serious.

    • CalsPals

      October 26, 2021 at 2:56 pm

      Totally agree, funny how the Indians/Guardians was such a big deal & the Braves aren’t, love to see someone buy the Guardians & change it back to the Indians….lol…go O’s…

  4. Arkyoriole

    October 26, 2021 at 8:18 am

    DJ is an enigma wrapped within a riddle. Or something like that.

  5. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 26, 2021 at 8:39 am

    I still think he’ll hit. After all… shouldn’t all these wonderful analytics kick in any time now? bwahahhaahaa

    Seriously though, I really think this guy will figure it out. Besides, like the article states, who’s ready to take his place?

    • Birdman

      October 26, 2021 at 3:03 pm

      Boog … has Stewart now assumed the role of Chance Sisco as the Oriole you just won’t give up on?

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 26, 2021 at 3:34 pm

        Who says I’ve given up on Chance Sisco?

  6. Triandos 11

    October 26, 2021 at 9:06 am

    For some reason I kind of also feel that he could figure things out. The only problem is he may need daily reps in the lineup and that does not seem likely unless he has a good spring. May end up a late bloomer but for someone else.

  7. Orioles20

    October 26, 2021 at 9:19 am

    Stewart needs to go. He has no value. He can’t play defense which put pressure on his offense which he doesn’t do well either so why keep him. Stowers will take his spot. I don’t know what the obsession is with Stewart is. I get that he’s a first round pick but it’s been seven years since then and he’s shown absolutely nothing to warrant keeping. And to make it worse Elias didn’t even draft him. He’s a holdover from the duquette front office and can we even name one guy he’s drafted that has actually impacted this team in a positive way. Yes Gausman had his moments but wasn’t the ace he is now and was supposed to be.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 26, 2021 at 9:29 am

      Mullins, Mancini, Mountcastle, Means and Hays were all drafted before the arrival of Mike Elias.

      • Orioles20

        October 26, 2021 at 9:56 am

        But there not first round picks. Mountcastle was a sandwich pick and he’s lived up to his billing. None of Duquettes first round picks have done anything. Gausman was a not good for us. Harvey can’t stay healthy. The 2014 pick should’ve been better considering we didn’t have a first round pick. If your gonna go for it you have to draft well. Stewart is a bust. Sedlock is still in the minors. And it’s to early to tell what Hall and Rodriguez will be. Look at what Mullins had done under Duquette. IMO Mullins was rushed to the majors because they were trying to give us something to cheer for in 2018 and it almost cost us.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          October 26, 2021 at 11:20 am

          C’mon 20 …. Rich gave you a damn good list and you blow it off. Be a man and admit your short sightedness in this one case.

          Until Elias actually does something, IF he ever does something, Duquette is the only winning GM this team has had since the freakin’ 90s for crying out loud. He wasn’t perfect. but he did a pretty good job considering who he was working for.

          • Orioles20

            October 26, 2021 at 11:30 am

            Most of those guys were late round picks. I talking about first round picks. Most of that talent on our winning teams was drafted by McPhial. Machado was drafted by him. Britton was. He acquired Jones and Davis. I’ll give you that Duquette hit on hays and Mullins and means. But the lack of drafting and developing is why we are in a rebuild now. Look at the Yankees they have supplemented the big spending with homegrown talent or the Dodgers. We never did that. Say what you want about Elias but he’s drafting and developing.

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            October 26, 2021 at 2:02 pm

            1st off …you specify “1st round” when you asked for just one good draft pick.

            Beside, Duqs wasn’t around for that many drafts and he certainly wasn’t drafting at the top of each round. That’s what happens when you’re not selling out your fans and instead trying to put a real major league team on the field.

            Let me ask you …do you really think Duqs would have passed on Rutschman? Didn’t take a boy genius to figure than one out did it?

        • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

          October 26, 2021 at 2:31 pm

          “And it’s to early to tell what … Rodriguez will be.”

          I read this to my cat and he fell over laughing. In homage to Norm, I must add I love your comment!

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            October 26, 2021 at 3:36 pm

            Does the name Dylan Bundy give you any pause on Rodriguez? Or perhaps the name Tommy John?

            Just saying …

            (please don’t tell your cat I brought this up)

        • Georgia Oriole

          October 26, 2021 at 3:56 pm

          Mountcastle was a 1st round pick actually

  8. millboy

    October 26, 2021 at 9:50 am

    Keep him one more year in hopes of him figuring it out…or until Stowers or someone else is really ready to be promoted

    • OriolesNumber1Fan

      October 26, 2021 at 6:16 pm

      Yeah, I think DD would’ve passed on Rutschman or would’ve signed the on going FA right fielders after letting Markakis go for nothing!!! And my reason why, because he traded a Cy Young pitcher in Jake Arrietta for a two month rental on a number 5 starter!!! And trying to put a real major league team on the field, in my book this doesn’t include 3 out of 4 years of the Orioles finishing under .500 and the last two years finishing in last place!!! I don’t call that product putting a real major league team on the field!!!

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 26, 2021 at 6:45 pm

        Those esclamation points are like cowbell. I need more.

    • CalsPals

      October 26, 2021 at 7:18 pm

      At least he was trying to make the varsity O’s better…go O’s…

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        October 27, 2021 at 10:39 am

        If that’s DD trying, finishing 3 out of 4 years under .500 and the last two in the cellar with 1 being the worst record in Orioles history, I’ll take Mike Elias on rebuilding the mess DD made in Baltimore. Especially after the Jake Arrieta trade, the Manny Machado trade, the Zach Britton trade and then from not learning from the Arrieta trade, and for an encore, trading potential Cy Young candidate Kevin Gausman!!!

    • CalsPals

      October 28, 2021 at 7:09 am

      Relax, didn’t say he did a good job of it, but he tried making the varsity better, Mikey hasn’t at all, yet…go O’s…

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        October 28, 2021 at 8:34 am

        “Mikey” as you call him, isn’t a finished product yet. Like any new beautiful and strong house, a great FOUNDATION is needed first and foremost!!! And from what I have seen so far, he’s done a great job in building the Orioles foundation to the Orioles farm system (figuratively), including the overseas teams and new foundation to the new building (both figuratively and literally respectively) they are committed to now as well!!! You don’t spend the $$$ the Orioles did without having this kind of commitment!!!

  9. Buzz1979

    October 26, 2021 at 10:03 am

    I think it is time to move on. He’s had more chances than Earl’s first wife!

  10. Orial

    October 26, 2021 at 10:21 am

    Rich you’ve sufficiently explained why DJ might be back–the future OF prospects are at least 2 years away. Santander can’t stay healthy. So barring a FA signing Stewart might just be back. He represents that struggling pitcher enigma hanging over this organization–another team picks him up,does a little tweaking and voila we’ve got a .270-.280 hitter with power. Find a way to keep him from falling victim to those high fastballs that really kill lefty hitters. Stowers down with an injury–will this ever end? Geesh.

  11. Balt mp

    October 26, 2021 at 10:42 am

    DJ Stewart unless he changes his hand position is not going to hit it’s really that simple . His hands start high by his ears his swing is long and loops meaning he can not get to the current mlb average fastball placed from the belt up .

    The guy is bulky that’s not body shamming it’s a fact the hands should come down to the letters and as big as he is all he needs to do is drop the head on the ball he swings like he is trying to put it in Elias window in the warehouse.

    His defense is suspect and lacks outfielder instincts on hitting the correct cutoff man his arm is not a right fielder.

    One thing I’ve seen with the Orioles so far in the off season is you better get with the program or your gone look at the triple a house cleaning for example . If DJ wants to stick he better make some changes to his game or he could become a 4A player by June .

    • Balt mp

      October 26, 2021 at 12:44 pm

      I don’t think you can put a 7 yr failed organizational experiment on Don Long who had this for 2 yrs . The player had to see and understand the why . In this case the book is pound him in because he can’t get to it .

  12. willmiranda

    October 26, 2021 at 11:01 am

    Why has no one cited the obvious? It’s all been the former hitting coach’s fault, and the recent “house cleaning” got rid of him. I’m sure the new mentor will turn DJ into a new David Ortiz, and we’ll all be rewarded for our patience.

  13. AkronOhioOriole1

    October 26, 2021 at 11:16 am

    Give our real prospects a shot and let Stewart go and play in Japan. I’m sure they will enjoy a ball hitting him in the head daily in right field.

  14. Buzz1979

    October 26, 2021 at 12:07 pm

    The Jose Canseco school of outfielding!

    • CalsPals

      October 26, 2021 at 12:51 pm

      Hey, at least he could hit…lol…go O’s…

    • AkronOhioOriole1

      October 26, 2021 at 7:09 pm

      2021 Class Valedictorian….maybe 2020 and 2019 also!

    • CalsPals

      October 26, 2021 at 7:19 pm

      Lol…hysterical…go O’s…

  15. Bman

    October 26, 2021 at 12:58 pm

    I still think he could be worth something with every day at bats. He may not deserve that, especially with other OFs and prospects now in the organization. Maybe hope he has a good couple of months then trade him for something, anything, and call up Stowers, Diaz, Neustrom.

  16. 66OsFan

    October 26, 2021 at 2:13 pm

    I’ve commented many times with friends at the ballpark watch Stewart play that he just wasn’t and MLB caliber player. Yeah, his on-base percentage is good, and in a moneyball situation Billy Beane would love to have him. That being said, with only moderate progress expected next year, give him a shot early on. As someone else commented, if the Senior League adopts the DH maybe he can be packaged at the trade deadline next year….

  17. Buzz1979

    October 26, 2021 at 9:19 pm

    A DH needs to be able to hit!

  18. MDNative58

    October 26, 2021 at 10:01 pm

    In five years when Elijah Green is an all-star DJ Stewart will just be a bad dream.

    • CalsPals

      October 27, 2021 at 7:13 am

      Brooks may have something to say about that…go O’s…

  19. Jammer Daniels 5

    October 29, 2021 at 5:10 pm

    He has to have unbelievable spring to make it to Baltimore next season.

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