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Kohl Stewart: 6.8 K/9?

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#1 bdhenders

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 06:20 AM

I was just updating myself on the minor league stats and found one player that is troubling to me. Kohl Stewart, the highly touted high school pitcher and 4th overall pick who did great last year with a K/9 above 10, is only striking out about 7 batters per 9 this year. It is a relatively small sample size with only 9 games, but he also has only about a 2/1 strikeout to walk ratio, which is low.

I'm probably just overreacting, but I was wondering what others thoughts were. Also, if anyone out there in Cedar Rapids could comment on what they've seen of Stewart this year, that would be great. I'm thinking of traveling down to see the Kernels this year from Minneapolis, so any tips along those lines would also be welcome.

#2 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 06:47 AM

A couple things:

1) It's been climbing... slowly, but climbing.
2) He shelved his slider. Not sure if he's been working it back in or not, but for the most part he's been working on his fastball/change from what I understand.
3) He's only pitched 43 innings.

I wouldn't be terribly worried given the situation. This is his first full year of ball and he's already in low A where a lot of rookies are still spending a year in the appy league. He's operating with pretty strict pitching limitations as well. He's done quite a good job keeping the runs off the board and hitters off base as he has a WHIP at just over 1. That's pretty good given his age relative to the league.

I wouldn't be terribly worried about it. If we are still seeing this well into next season, I think there's reason to wonder.

#3 Larsbars08

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 07:52 AM

The slider is his best pitch and his out pitch, so the fact that he isn't throwing it and still nearly striking out 7 batters per 9 is impressive. I think they wanted him to work on his fastball command and his changeup.

#4 gunnarthor

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 07:54 AM

Yeah, I've read that the Twins didn't want him relying on his slider as much down there. He's also the youngest player in the league. Parks at baseball prospectus mentioned him in a chat the other day and still thinks he could be a true #1 type. I think this is probably a good case of "don't scout the stat line."

#5 nicksaviking

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 08:24 AM

When I heard the slider was shelved I felt a little better. Still there is some concern. There's really not much historical precedence of strikeout pitchers at the MLB level who couldn't manage strong K rates in A ball.

#6 Vervehound

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 12:01 PM

When I heard the slider was shelved I felt a little better. Still there is some concern. There's really not much historical precedence of strikeout pitchers at the MLB level who couldn't manage strong K rates in A ball.


but there is a long history of allowing young pitchers to throw their breaking stuff and get t.j. right away. this way of handling stewart might be the next trend in for bonus baby arms - build your arm strength your first season and learn to spot your fastball and change-up, then work in your breaking stuff as you mature.

#7 jokin

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 12:12 PM

but there is a long history of allowing young pitchers to throw their breaking stuff and get t.j. right away. this way of handling stewart might be the next trend in for bonus baby arms - build your arm strength your first season and learn to spot your fastball and change-up, then work in your breaking stuff as you mature.


+1

Give the Twins full credit here for looking out for the health and long-term prospects for a high 1st round draft pick. We've discussed this issue before. The guy is picking up baseball as a second sports option....raw as heck- in terms of being a "pitcher"....limiting the breaking stuff until much later will limit the chance for injury- giving Stewart a chance to move up the ranks without health issues, so perhaps he ends up with the Twins more quickly.

#8 Thrylos

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 12:19 PM

did great last year with a K/9 above 10.


That was extra small sample size and really skewed by a single 4 IP start with the E-town Twins:

Last season:

GCL: 6 G, 3 GS, 16 IP, 9 K/9, 23.2 K%
AppL: 1 G, 1 GS, 4 IP, 18 K/9, 53.3 K%

This season:

ML: 9 G, 9 GS, 43 IP, 6.7 K/9, 18.1 K%

Based on the IPs, the difference between GCL and ML is practically insignificant, if you realize that this is 2 levels of competition higher.

If he has 15% ish K-rate and is stuck at AA three seasons from now, then maybe can start being concerned that he might be a bullpen arm...
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#9 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 12:52 PM

There's really not much historical precedence of strikeout pitchers at the MLB level who couldn't manage strong K rates in A ball.


This, to me at least, is where a reliance on just stats misses the big picture. Guys don't just go the minors and pitch. They have a plan. They are working on things, and all of this needs to be taken in context. I don't get worked up about a top pitcher with a 7k/9 when I know his best pitch has been largely shelved. As well, low A hitters have trouble with breaking pitches as it is, so if the pitch is as good as advertised, it's not doing Stewart a whole lot of good throwing it a ton.

The Ks will come when he starts working it back in, and this makes more sense in the higher minors. But for now, they want their raw talent to work on the fast/change. The fact that Stewart is striking out that many while not relying on his best pitch says a lot.

#10 markos

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 01:27 PM

I looked back at how other top HS pitchers performed at low-A the year after they were drafted.

Stewart's K rate is currently at 18.1%. Since 2007, there have been only 3 HS pitchers (out of 20) that have had a lower K rate: Matt Hobgood (2007), Nick Travieso (2012) and Trey Ball (2013).

The following pitchers all had K rates above 25%:
Madison Bumgarner, 30%
Zack Wheeler, 27%
Shelby Miller, 32%
Jameson Taillon, 25%
Dylan Bundy, 40%
Archie Bradley, 26%
Jose Fernandez, 34%
Lucas Sims, 28%
Hunter Harvey, 30%

As others have pointed out, prospect experts at both Baseball Prospectus and ESPN have recently talked about Stewart, and no one has made any mention of the low strikeout rate. In fact, they all had very positive things to say about his control so far. I'm not worried... yet.

#11 jokin

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 01:31 PM

I looked back at how other top HS pitchers performed at low-A the year after they were drafted.

Stewart's K rate is currently at 18.1%. Since 2007, there have been only 3 HS pitchers (out of 20) that have had a lower K rate: Matt Hobgood (2007), Nick Travieso (2012) and Trey Ball (2013).

The following pitchers all had K rates above 25%:
Madison Bumgarner, 30%
Zack Wheeler, 27%
Shelby Miller, 32%
Jameson Taillon, 25%
Dylan Bundy, 40%
Archie Bradley, 26%
Jose Fernandez, 34%
Lucas Sims, 28%
Hunter Harvey, 30%

As others have pointed out, prospect experts at both Baseball Prospectus and ESPN have recently talked about Stewart, and no one has made any mention of the low strikeout rate. In fact, they all had very positive things to say about his control so far. I'm not worried... yet.


I hope someone posts the TJ rate relative to the low-A ball pitchers throwing sliders and curves . I see a number guys just on this list who have already gone down to arm injuries.

#12 cmb0252

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 01:40 PM

Minor league baseball is a place to develop, not to put up stats. He is working on fastball command.

#13 AScheib50

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 02:39 PM

I hope someone posts the TJ rate relative to the low-A ball pitchers throwing sliders and curves . I see a number guys just on this list who have already gone down to arm injuries.


Agreed, we've seen how that 40% K rate worked for Dylan Bundy. Clearly he isn't the only guy on that list to have arm injuries either. I wouldn't worry about Kohl Stewart just yet at all.

You almost wonder if his involvement in football will be a blessing in the long run because he wasn't one of those kids who only pitched for 12 months a year. Hopefully that will help his arm in the long run.

#14 spycake

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 11:31 AM

This, to me at least, is where a reliance on just stats misses the big picture. Guys don't just go the minors and pitch. They have a plan. They are working on things, and all of this needs to be taken in context.


If this approach is common for guys in the minors, shouldn't this context be reflected in the statistical record, though? Shouldn't there be other examples of guys like Stewart who started their MiLB careers with low K rates while working on other stuff? If Stewart is a singularly unique case, that probably hurts his odds of future MLB success.

Obviously, it's way too early to judge Stewart much, but it would be comforting if there was some precedent for his start (honestly not sure if there is or isn't).

#15 Tibs

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 11:45 AM

If this approach is common for guys in the minors, shouldn't this context be reflected in the statistical record, though? Shouldn't there be other examples of guys like Stewart who started their MiLB careers with low K rates while working on other stuff? If Stewart is a singularly unique case, that probably hurts his odds of future MLB success.

Obviously, it's way too early to judge Stewart much, but it would be comforting if there was some precedent for his start (honestly not sure if there is or isn't).

This is missing the point though. He reportedly isn't using his slider which is a very good pitch and it's easy to think his numbers would be better if he was using it.

I don't know why he isn't using his slider. I agree with some posters that it is likely for saving his arm and it is better for his development to work on fastball and change up command. If he isn't using it for another reason, then yes the K/9 numbers might be concerning.
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#16 nicksaviking

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 11:45 AM

but there is a long history of allowing young pitchers to throw their breaking stuff and get t.j. right away. this way of handling stewart might be the next trend in for bonus baby arms - build your arm strength your first season and learn to spot your fastball and change-up, then work in your breaking stuff as you mature.


I'm all for the Twins being trailblazers. They've been among the last teams to adopt any new baseball ideas for abuot a decade. If the slider is shelved while he develops his other pitches and he becomes better and stays healthy because of it, great, I like the plan. I like it a lot.

But by being a trailblazer, you also will have more questions than answers until it's time to show your finished results. The Twins are already synonymous with strikeout futility. Fair or not, if they screw this up and turn Stewart into another arm that can't miss bats, they are going to have some explaining to do.

Again, I have no problem with them trying this approach, in fact I like the idea of them trying something different, but that doesn't mean there isn't some concern.

#17 tobi0040

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 11:45 AM

If this approach is common for guys in the minors, shouldn't this context be reflected in the statistical record, though? Shouldn't there be other examples of guys like Stewart who started their MiLB careers with low K rates while working on other stuff? If Stewart is a singularly unique case, that probably hurts his odds of future MLB success.

Obviously, it's way too early to judge Stewart much, but it would be comforting if there was some precedent for his start (honestly not sure if there is or isn't).


I think what he has done this year has been amazing. He has never pitched year round and in his first year as a pro he has given up 37 hits in 49 IP, with two pitches. A 1.06 WHIP?

#18 drivlikejehu

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 11:56 AM

If he's really not throwing his slider at all, how can he improve his command of the pitch? That doesn't seem like a real bright strategy. Is that really the case, that the pitch is shelved entirely?

If so, it would help explain the K rate... and also explain why, by the time he reaches the Majors, he won't have a good 3rd pitch anymore.

#19 jokin

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 12:13 PM

If he's really not throwing his slider at all, how can he improve his command of the pitch? That doesn't seem like a real bright strategy. Is that really the case, that the pitch is shelved entirely?

If so, it would help explain the K rate... and also explain why, by the time he reaches the Majors, he won't have a good 3rd pitch anymore.


Did anyone say that Stewart isn't allowed to ever throw a slider again while he's in the minors? Save this post to use again if he's still not throwing the slider in AA.

#20 SD Buhr

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 12:19 PM

He's mixing in occasional breaking balls. Call it a curve, a slider or a slurve, whatever. He changes speeds on it. He's not throwing it a lot, focusing mostly on fastball and change up command.

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#21 drivlikejehu

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 12:20 PM

I don't like the idea of dropping or de-emphasizing a good pitch for any significant amount of time. Pitchers always say how important 'feel' is, and it seems like throwing a pitch is important in terms of maintaining and developing it.

#22 jokin

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 12:23 PM

He's mixing in occasional breaking balls. Call it a curve, a slider or a slurve, whatever. He changes speeds on it. He's not throwing it a lot, focusing mostly on fastball and change up command.


Given the outbreak of arm injuries among young hot prospects around the league, this sounds like the proper course of action.

#23 tobi0040

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 01:48 PM

Given the outbreak of arm injuries among young hot prospects around the league, this sounds like the proper course of action.



If he has a plus slider, this will force him to develop the other pitches. Throw just enough of them not to lose it, save the arm for when it counts.

#24 spycake

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 02:20 PM

This is missing the point though. He reportedly isn't using his slider which is a very good pitch and it's easy to think his numbers would be better if he was using it.


I understand that. But the above posters were suggesting that kind of experimentation or "holding back" was a regular practice in the minors. If so, then it should be visible somewhere in the data -- i.e. there should be example(s) of a highly touted pitcher posting low K numbers in the low minors before going on to success (and presumably higher K numbers) later.

Other posters have suggested this is a new/unique approach just for Stewart. Which explains the numbers, but being a "test case" isn't exactly reassuring! Also, seems kind of odd that a pitcher simply wouldn't be allowed to throw an allegedly very good pitch -- I could see limited use, yes, but you can't just not throw it and expect to develop as a professional.

That said, his K rate isn't super-low, it's a small sample, he's young, and he's getting good results otherwise. Definitely not writing him off, but I will also be a little more wary of penciling him into any future MLB rotations for the time being.

#25 jokin

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 02:23 PM

I understand that. But the above posters were suggesting that kind of experimentation or "holding back" was a regular practice in the minors. If so, then it should be visible somewhere in the data -- i.e. there should be example(s) of a highly touted pitcher posting low K numbers in the low minors before going on to success (and presumably higher K numbers) later.

Other posters have suggested this is a new/unique approach just for Stewart. Which explains the numbers, but being a "test case" isn't exactly reassuring! Also, seems kind of odd that a pitcher simply wouldn't be allowed to throw an allegedly very good pitch -- I could see limited use, yes, but you can't just not throw it and expect to develop as a professional.

That said, his K rate isn't super-low, it's a small sample, he's young, and he's getting good results otherwise. Definitely not writing him off, but I will also be a little more wary of penciling him into any future MLB rotations for the time being.


It's also important to add in Stewart's profile that baseball was only a little more than a hobby to him growing up. If there is still a noticeable K% discrepancy by the second half of next year, I think this type of concern will be more warranted.

#26 jokin

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 02:27 PM

If he has a plus slider, this will force him to develop the other pitches. Throw just enough of them not to lose it, save the arm for when it counts.




Yes, spot on. It's been reported that Stewart's pure stuff is at a much higher level than the bats he's facing in the Midwest League. As far as I have read going back to before last year's draft, the slider is a real out pitch for Stewart, so it's probably safe to assume that it's a plus pitch. Perhaps the faithful in the community who are fully aware of his repertoire can confirm which of his pitches are plus or plus-plus?

#27 tobi0040

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 02:39 PM

It's also important to add in Stewart's profile that baseball was only a little more than a hobby to him growing up. If there is still a noticeable K% discrepancy by the second half of next year, I think this type of concern will be more warranted.


I expected a slow start for Stewart with improvement as he moves forward. So a ERA under 2.50 with very few hits and 7 k per 9 is encouraging. He will get better as he plays more baseball.

Berrios, while not 5th overall pick had a 3.99 ERA with about 9 K per 9 last year in this league. Eades, although a second round pick has an ERA of 5.66 in the same league and he is 3 years older.

#28 70charger

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 03:56 PM

I understand that. But the above posters were suggesting that kind of experimentation or "holding back" was a regular practice in the minors. If so, then it should be visible somewhere in the data -- i.e. there should be example(s) of a highly touted pitcher posting low K numbers in the low minors before going on to success (and presumably higher K numbers) later.

Other posters have suggested this is a new/unique approach just for Stewart. Which explains the numbers, but being a "test case" isn't exactly reassuring! Also, seems kind of odd that a pitcher simply wouldn't be allowed to throw an allegedly very good pitch -- I could see limited use, yes, but you can't just not throw it and expect to develop as a professional.

That said, his K rate isn't super-low, it's a small sample, he's young, and he's getting good results otherwise. Definitely not writing him off, but I will also be a little more wary of penciling him into any future MLB rotations for the time being.


You make a good statistical point, but although I'm sure that almost all minor league pitchers are experimenting to a certain extent, I think very few of them are positioned well enough to hold back a pitch almost completely. How many minor league pitchers have a slider (or any pitch) so well-developed it simply isn't needed while the pitcher can work on other things? I'm guessing there are about as few pitchers are in this situation as there are pitchers with Stewart's potential and pedigree.

#29 drivlikejehu

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 05:07 PM

The whole pitch selection thing reminds me of other stuff we've heard over the years, that turned out to not really be the correct explanation. Hitters at the Midwest League level are generally not good at all... Slowey tore them apart with fastball command alone, other guys just overpower them with velocity, etc. You don't need to be a complete pitcher to dominate at that level.

#30 DocBauer

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 08:29 PM

Also not worried at this point. Remember, he really didnt pitch many innings last season. And despite his young age, he's performing well and trending upward.

I seriously doubt that in games and bullpens he is simply ordered to NEVER throw a slider. That would simply be ridiculous. I think more likely he is simply restricted in how many to throw in order to continue work on other pitches.

I just wish we could have someone actually explain the process here instead of conjecture and rumor.