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Article: Stewart and Harrison: Quieting Critics?

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#1 SD Buhr

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Posted 11 May 2016 - 09:12 PM

There's nothing like having a really bad product at the major league level to focus fans' attention on prospects in an organization's minor league system and that's exactly what has happened in Twinsville over the past several years.Many Twins fans who have turned their primary attention to the club's prospects have, for the past couple of years, been somewhat underwhelmed by the stat lines of pitcher Kohl Stewart and outfielder Travis Harrison, to the point where I mentioned in my offseason "top prospects" article that both players were approaching career crossroads.


The criticisms of Stewart were almost entirely centered on his low strikeout rates, and Harrison wasn't living up to some peoples' expectations offensively, especially with regard to power numbers.

I wrapped up my article in February with the following:

Both of these young players undoubtedly know they’ve reached the point where they need to show everyone just why the Twins scouts liked them enough to use very high draft picks on them as they were coming out of high school. They’re both hard workers.

Don’t be surprised if, a year from now, we are all talking about how they both had breakout seasons and wondering how the Twins are going to find big league spots for them in the near future.

Well, we aren't anywhere close to a year down the road, as the minor league season is just under 25% complete, but it's worth checking in on the early returns for both players, each of who is, for the first time in their respective careers, repeating a level of minor league ball; Stewart at advanced-A Fort Myers and Harrison at AA Chattanooga.
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  • Travis Harrison (Photo: Steve Buhr)
Harrison still hasn't shown pronounced home run power, though he does have two home runs for the Lookouts. That projects to eight for the season, which would be his highest total since smacking 15 for Class A Cedar Rapids in 2013, but still might be considered lower than some would have expected. Still, he is just 23 years old, so there's plenty of time to see more power develop and home runs are just about the only thing he's not hitting this season.

Harrison is hitting .297 in 29 games for Chattanooga, which is 57 points higher than his .240 average in 2015 and he's slugging almost 50 points higher, as well. He's also in the midst of an impressive stretch of offensive production, hitting .405 in his last ten games, during which he's had six multi-hit games. He's still striking out more than you'd like to see, but on balance, you have to be encouraged by his 2016 season to-date.

In 2015, Stewart threw by far more innings (129.1) than he had thrown since he passed on a scholarship to play quarterback for Texas A&M to sign with the Twins as their 2014 first-round draft choice, but he continued to strike out barely one batter for every couple of innings he toed the mound.
He's on pace to throw about 140 innings in 2016 (and could be more if he's promoted to AA, where the Twins are less inclined to utilize a 6-man starting rotation than they are at the Class A levels). More importantly (to many, anyway) Stewart is also on pace to strike out over 130 batters, which would nearly double his K total from a season ago.

Stewart has managed to pick up his strikeout rate without suffering in other areas. He's carrying a 2.08 ERA through his first six starts and has given up just one home run on the year.

As with Harrison, we tend to forget just how young Stewart is because we've been watching and talking about him for years, but he'll still be just 21 years old when the minor league seasons wrap up in September. Even if he doesn't maintain his early strikeout rate (which is certainly possible, especially if he's eventually promoted to AA this summer), he has demonstrated that he's capable of sitting batters down. For a 21-year-old, that's enough to satisfy me for now.

It's certainly premature to project certain big league stardom for either Harrison or Stewart, but I predicted we would see breakout seasons from both in 2016 and I certainly like the way they've started out.
(This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com.)

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#2 spycake

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 06:44 AM

Stewart's start seems promising, but I'm not that sure about Harrison.  His BB% is a career low, his K% a career high, and his bump in ISO is thus far pretty minor -- Niko Goodrum and Levi Michael both managed higher ISOs in the same league/park just last season.  Meanwhile, Harrison's BABIP is nearly 100 points higher than his previous career high since rookie ball.

 

His start could certainly be worse, but he has so much work to do just to suggest this performance level is sustainable based on his rate stats, so it's hard to get terribly encouraged thus far.

 

For that matter, his OPS is only .759.  He had an .812 OPS on June 1st last year, and later had a .747 in August, with better rate stats backing them up.  It will be an achievement if he can avoid the slump he had in June-July last year, but his current performance level and rate stats don't offer any additional evidence to suggest that he will.

Edited by spycake, 12 May 2016 - 06:56 AM.


#3 mlhouse

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 09:32 AM

Not to continue beating the same drum, but I think that the scouting report I posted after watching Stewarts last game is pretty accurate.  

 

He has a solid fastball with great control for an A+ pitcher.  As a starter he is in the upper-middle range with his fastball at 92-94.  He also can keep hitters off balance because he throws the FB at 92-94, the slider 86-88, and a change/curve at 80. In the game I watched few, if any, hitters pulled the ball in play (if they pulled the ball they were way out in front of the pitch and hit it foul).  With his control he gets into advantagous pitch counts and seldom gets behind.

 

But Stewarts problem is that even the less advanced A+ hitters often make good to very good contact against him even when behind in the count.  While other people may have better scouting reports than what I witnessed from Section 111, row 2, seat 5,  the biggest problem is the movement plane of the slider.  It simply does not drop enough so the hitters can swing at the slider AND fastball knowing that it is not going to change planes.  That makes it much easier to make solid contact and the more advanced hitters are going to be able to do more with that contact.

 

I thought his offspeed curve was adequate and probably needs just more consistency but his slider needs to have more bite.  He needs to be able to throw his slider were he will get more swings and misses.  IF he does that the Twins will have a #1 or #2 starter (if he stays healthy).  

 

If he cannot get that swing and miss pitch to keep the advanced hitters from making contact he will struggle to be a Phil Hughes level pitcher.  Good fastball and control.  Few walks.  Decent ground ball to fly ball ratio.  Mid level strikeout level at best.  Mid-lower spot on a starting rotation.


#4 Taildragger8791

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 09:46 AM

With Harrison, you mention that his slugging percentage is 50 points higher but his overall average is 57 points higher. That means he's punching a few extra singles through but actually demonstrating less power. If that's luck-driven, as spycake alludes to with the elevated BABIP, then it doesn't appear like he's turned any sort of corner. Maybe he's hitting more line drives and will sustain a fraction of that increase in average, but he's trading off 2Bs, 3Bs, and K/BB rate right now.

 

If he maintained this pace here's what his numbers would look like in the same number of at-bats as he had last year:

 

YEAR AB 1B 2B 3B HR AVG SLG
2015 396 63 23 4 5 .240 .356
2016 396 91 18 1 7 .295 .399

 

You can shift those hit types a little but this is enough to get the idea. Those would be pretty underwhelming full-season stats from a 23-year old 3B at AA.

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#5 Thrylos

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 09:50 AM

 

With Harrison, you mention that his slugging percentage is 50 points higher but his overall average is 57 points higher. That means he's punching a few extra singles through but actually demonstrating less power. If that's luck-driven, as spycake alludes to with the elevated BABIP, then it doesn't appear like he's turned any sort of corner. Maybe he's hitting more line drives and will sustain a fraction of that increase in average, but he's trading off 2Bs, 3Bs, and K/BB rate right now.

 

Just in case:  It has been way too cold and rainy in the Southeast all baseball season so far.  Balls are dying.  Give a full season and then let's talk about power. Regardless, contact is much more important than power for him at this point.

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#6 Taildragger8791

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 09:58 AM

Finally figured out the tables. Sorry for the 100 edits if anyone was seeing some weird formatting.


#7 spycake

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 10:00 AM

 

Finally figured out the tables. Sorry for the 100 edits if anyone was seeing some weird formatting.

How did you do it, if you don't mind me asking?


#8 Taildragger8791

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 10:04 AM

 

How did you do it, if you don't mind me asking?

 

Using the BB codes for tables, table headers, and table rows. But I'm too lazy to type that all out so I cheated and used an HTML table generator and just used a text editor find/replace to swap all the "<" and ">" with "[" and "]".

 

This was the table generator I used:

http://www.tablesgen...com/html_tables

 

Make sure you click the checkbox for "Do not generate CSS".

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#9 bluechipper

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 10:13 AM

Travis Harrison is going to have to put up better power numbers to have a chance to make it as a below average fielding corner outfielder.


#10 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 13 May 2016 - 01:51 PM

Harrison has always shown flashes of good things.He's doing that again right now... definitely enough that I wouldn't give up on him.What I would say though is that his BABIP could simply be that he's hitting the ball hard.Those hits might not be finding the gaps, or as Thrylos noted, they could be getting killed by the cold, wet weather in the mid-west.I wouldn't be too concerned just yet.The biggest thing with Harrison is that he needs to do this for a season. He's had good stretches for several years now, but he tends to slow down over the year. 




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