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Article: Overheard at TwinsFest: Stewart's Plan, Baldelli's Preparation, Prospects and More

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#1 Tom Froemming

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 08:06 PM

WCCO does an excellent job at covering TwinsFest. All their interviews are available on demand at their site. As far as the really inside baseball stuff goes, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Kohl Stewart discuss his 2018 season. A spring training meeting between Stewart, senior analyst Josh Kalk and minor league pitching coordinator Pete Maki set the course for Stewart to go from somewhat of an afterthought in the system to a major leaguer.Kohl Stewart on the 2019 offseason:
“For the first time, with our program and what’s been implemented, I feel 100 percent confident with the plan they have in front of me and I feel like I can go out and execute it. I learned a lot last year whenever I got up in the big leagues for those eight appearances and I just feel like I knew exactly what I needed to do going into this offseason and I feel like I’m on a straight line, focused on what I’ve got to do.”

Stewart on getting a shot with the Twins:
“I wasn’t ready until this year. I didn’t ever buy in, I didn’t ever feel like I had a real good plan in place, I didn’t feel like I knew how to use the stuff that I had. And when I got to sit down with Josh Kalk and Pete Maki and all those guys in spring training and we talked about the one-seamer and we talked about throwing the cutter/slider off of it, throwing the curveball more often behind that, I finally felt like I was confident enough to actually be here. I never felt like that until this year.”

“It’s a big hurdle. Everybody in the minor leagues, it’s always messing with your mind. ‘Am I ever going to get there, am I good enough, can I play up there with those guys?’ So to get up here and to finally experience it is pretty awesome, pretty special.”

“I struggled for awhile in the minor leagues and finally this year, right after May I would say, I turned it on, I felt confident, I knew what to do on the mound, I had 100 percent confidence in what I was doing and it paid off.”

“The meeting is spring training, it was so eye-opening talking to those guys. They found a whole bunch of pitchers I had similar stuff with based on movement plots and based on velocity. They basically said ‘this is how these guys use their stuff. This is how Roy Halladay uses his sinker and cutter. This is how Marcus Stroman uses his sinker and slider. Your stuff is very close, we can get it closer. We can use slow cameras, we can use the Rapsodo, we can help you create these pitches. Let’s see how these guys compliment their stuff and how they pitch.’”

“So I spent a lot of time with Josh and those guys looking at that video, figuring out exactly what my plan was so by the time I took the mound in April, I knew exactly what I needed to do. And if I struggled in April and May, they said ‘look, you might go through some rough patches. This is new, it’s going to be hard for you to adjust.’ But once I had full confidence in what we were doing it was like, man, this pretty incredible.”

Stewart on new pitching coach Wes Johnson:
“Wes and I have talked a lot about my slider/cutter. We’re trying to get it a little bit more depth and a little bit more velocity and we think that they’ll tunnel a little bit better together so as a hitter it’ll be hard to account for those two things. Wes is pretty special at it. We’ve already talked about things like different pitch grips, moving the baseball around in my hand and how to make it happen. And we have actual data that can prove that it’s working, so it’s pretty awesome.”

Stewart on heading into the 2019 season:
“I never thought last year I’d be in the big leagues, but I never worried about it and I think that was why I was able to stay focused and not get too caught up in the transactions, playing GM when you’re in the minor leagues or on the verge of being in the big leagues. You just can’t get caught up in it, if you do, you’re going to lose track of what is in front of you.”

“I probably will have a chance to start in Triple-A this year and I need to go down there and do my job and earn a spot. Everybody’s gotta earn it. There’s only 25 spots here and they’re not giving them away, so make them notice you.”

Stewart was far from the only guy to reveal some interesting insights into what’s going on behind the scenes. Here are some more tidbits that I thought were particularly interesting:

Rocco Baldelli on preparing for his rookie season as manager:
“The prep that goes into everything going into the first year is kinda striking. It hits you when you realize you’re going to go over everything that goes on from top to bottom in all regards in all aspects. When you actually line it all up, it’s a lot, but it’s very important to do.”

“You don’t change things just for the sake of changing them, but until you look at it all, you just don’t know. And after being in the same organization for basically my entire baseball career, except for one year, I had a lot to learn. I had a lot of people to get to know here. And trying to do all that in one offseason, it’s been a lot, but really at the end of the day the most important thing right now for me is getting down to Fort Myers and getting on the field.”

“That’s actually what I’m looking forward to the most too, because I’m tired of talking, I’m ready to get out there and to watch these players.”

Joe Mauer in response to a question about the opener/third time through the order:
“I always say scouting reports go out the window after that first at bat. You’re making adjustments, he’s making adjustments. You’ve gotta figure out what your pitcher is capable of doing that day, not just what he should be doing.”

“Brad Radke was one of the best all-time control pitchers of our game, of his time. One thing he told me that really stuck with me was out of his 36 starts, he might only have all four pitches working maybe four times. So what are you going to do when he has three pitches working? What are you going to do when he has two pitches working? So I took that as a hitter, as well, to kind of eliminate pitches.”

Taylor Rogers on Eddie Guardado’s suggestion:
“He pointed out one day that I could maybe throw a slider along with the curveball. So we worked on it for probably about a month or so, pregame and everything like that, and felt comfortable enough with it to bring it in the game and just got some immediate results with it. So I’m kinda looking forward to bringing ‘er back this year and working on it for an entire season.”

There’s always a lot of prospects at TwinsFest. One of my favorite things about listening through all these interviews was hearing all the guys talk about the climb up through the minor leagues.

Trevor Larnach on difference from college to pros:
“Pro ball, there’s starters every night that go low to mid 90s or even high upper 90s. College, it’s more like maybe high 88/low 90s, they’re going to hit their spots, they’re going to try and really get you out as a pitcher. I think that really helped me out coming into pro ball. Coming to E-Town and Cedar Rapids, you’re facing some good arms every night so you kinda gotta be locked in, but at the same time, for me at least, I had the edge of an approach that I’ve developed throughout the years in college.”

Royce Lewis on his first full season in pro ball:
“There’s times where you can go super hard and there’s times where you can reel back a little bit. And then learning how to work off the field on your game, getting more rest, eating the right ways. I just ate Chick-fil-A all the time, that’s my favorite place to go. I started to stop eating that and started to cook home-cooked meals, so little things like that will help you get prepared for the game.”

Brent Rooker on the jump from A-Ball to Double-A:
“Once you get to Double-A there’s more experience on the pitching staff. The stuff is about the same as it is in High-A, it’s just a little bit more refined, they can kinda do what they want to with it. They have better pitch plans, better game plans against you, how they want to beat you, how they want to get you out. So the level of talent kind of stays the same, it’s just that those guys are a little bit more experienced and kinda have a better idea of what they want to do.”

LaMonte Wade on the difference from Double-A to Triple-A:
“The pitchers throw less fastballs in fastball counts at Triple-A. They have more command of all their pitches. They really know how to get you out. They’re veteran guys that have been there before. You face a lot of big leaguers rehabbing, a lot of ex-big leaguers still playing, so they know how to make outs. It’s always adjustments. It’s a game of adjustments, and I think in Triple-A you really see that.”

Nick Gordon on the move up to Triple A:
“It’s not so much about talent when you get to Triple-A. Everybody’s talented, everybody can play the game, that’s why they’re there. It’s about being smart, using your head and knowing situations, knowing the guy you’re facing the day before, knowing the team that you’re playing against, knowing who likes to shift, knowing who likes to do this and do that. I think really it’s about learning the game and being a student of the game is really what Triple-A brings to you.”

Stephen Gonsalves on moving from Triple-A to the big leagues:
“Everyone has that talent once you get to Triple-A but I think it’s that mental toughness. Guys go about their business a certain way. They all have their routines. They’re much more professional. It’s just a matter of trusting who you are as a person.”

Even some of the less substantial questions and small talk was pretty enjoyable. While interviewing Lewis Thorpe, Dick Bremer mentioned that his son Eric was broadcasting games for the Brisbane Bandits in the Australian Baseball League. Bremer asked “is he eating well, is he doing OK?” Thorpe, who did color commentary alongside Bremer’s son for a few games, replied “yeah, he’s doing well, he hasn’t got eaten by a crocodile or anything like that” in his amazing Australian accent.

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#2 jimbo92107

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 08:41 PM

Living in San Diego, I do kinda miss Twins Fest. On the other hand, I don't miss shoveling snow, not one bit.

 

Pitchers and catchers, pack yer bags!

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#3 big dog

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 10:03 PM

OK, that was an awesome post.Thanks.Love what Stewart said- all aspects of it.Really interesting and very encouraging.

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#4 jimbo92107

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 12:00 AM

Agree with big dog. What Stewart said here is very encouraging. He has realized that pitching is a serious art, a discipline that requires tinkering with some very subtle issues, like the exact grip for a particular pitch, the exactly right velocity and placement, etc. The fact that he mentions these fine distinctions implies that he also believes he has a good chance of mastering them.

 

As we know, the Twins drafted Stewart in large part because they recognized in him a very high level of athleticism, which includes an ability to learn and hone new skills. Maybe what we are seeing is a young pitcher at the threshold of achieving his high potential. If Kohl Stewart can forge himself into a Brad Radke, I think we would all be very happy.

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#5 jokin

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 02:21 AM

 

For the first time, with our program and what’s been implemented, I feel 100 percent confident with the plan they have in front of me and I feel like I can go out and execute it. I learned a lot last year whenever I got up in the big leagues for those eight appearances and I just feel like I knew exactly what I needed to do going into this offseason and I feel like I’m on a straight line, focused on what I’ve got to do.”

 

Stewart on getting a shot with the Twins:

 

“I wasn’t ready until this year. I didn’t ever buy in, I didn’t ever feel like I had a real good plan in place, I didn’t feel like I knew how to use the stuff that I had. And when I got to sit down with Josh Kalk and Pete Maki...

 

Question-

 

Are these comments in bold more of an indictment of Stewart... or the Twins' developmental staff?

 

His stock had fallen so low, his MLB promotion seemed like an afterthought at the time. Kiley McDaniel didn't even have him on his Twins top 30 prospect list published last May (deservedly so).

 

Six years into his Twins tutelage, a #4 overall pick in 2013, probably the top athlete in that draft, as well, who admittedly never bought into the plan. This is a kid coming out of elite football- Where everything is planned out.

 

It took until his 6th year in pro ball to "feel like [he] knew how to use the stuff that [he] had?" Really? Perhaps more goal-setting would help to motivate?

 

Stewart's still a huge question mark, but hopefully, with all of the changes, better "plans" for Kohl and other top prospects are being implemented and adhered to.

 

(Kohl made it sound like his first exposure to analytical technology and mechanical refinements didn't happen until 2018. Disturbing, if true. It would just seem like the guys that the Twins have made multi-million dollar up-front investments in would have a more comprehensive "plan" implemented from day one in order to ensure better [and faster] return on those investments.)

Edited by jokin, 29 January 2019 - 06:27 AM.

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#6 miracleb

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 05:56 AM

Question-

Are these comments in bold more of an indictment of Stewart... or the Twins' developmental staff?

His stock had fallen so low, his MLB promotion seemed like an afterthought at the time. Kiley McDaniel didn't even have him on his Twins top 30 prospect list published last May (deservedly so).

Six years into his Twins tutelage, a #4 overall pick in 2013, probably the top athlete in that draft, as well, who admittedly never bought into the plan. This is a kid coming out of elite football- Where everything is planned out.

It took until his 6th year in pro ball to "feel like [he] knew how to use the stuff that [he] had?" Really? Perhaps more goal-setting would help to motivate?

Stewart's still a huge question mark, but hopefully, with all of the changes, better "plans" for Kohl and other top prospects are being implemented and adhered to.

(Kohl made it sound like his first exposure to analytical technology and mechanical refinements didn't happen until 2018. Disturbing, if true. It would just seem like the guys that the Twins have made multi-million dollar up-front investments in would have a more comprehensive "plan" implemented from day one in order to ensure better return on those investments.)



There is nothing in Stewart's minor league career that would suggest that he could be anything more than an AAAA player. If it were as easy as turning on the analytic "button," I think it probably would have been done by now. I would love to see him magically turn things around after 5-6 years into it.....but I am not holding my breath.
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#7 Sconnie

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 06:17 AM

Question-

Are these comments in bold more of an indictment of Stewart... or the Twins' developmental staff?

His stock had fallen so low, his MLB promotion seemed like an afterthought at the time. Kiley McDaniel didn't even have him on his Twins top 30 prospect list published last May (deservedly so).

Six years into his Twins tutelage, a #4 overall pick in 2013, probably the top athlete in that draft, as well, who admittedly never bought into the plan. This is a kid coming out of elite football- Where everything is planned out.

It took until his 6th year in pro ball to "feel like [he] knew how to use the stuff that [he] had?" Really? Perhaps more goal-setting would help to motivate?

Stewart's still a huge question mark, but hopefully, with all of the changes, better "plans" for Kohl and other top prospects are being implemented and adhered to.

(Kohl made it sound like his first exposure to analytical technology and mechanical refinements didn't happen until 2018. Disturbing, if true. It would just seem like the guys that the Twins have made multi-million dollar up-front investments in would have a more comprehensive "plan" implemented from day one in order to ensure better return on those investments.)

I’m encouraged by Stewart’s results and his new found support, however I’m with you.

What took so long?

Sometimes it takes a new voice, just like the change of scenery effect, but gosh why didn’t the old FO (or Falvey and Levine) figure out earlier that the coaching voices weren’t effective?
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#8 Riverbrian

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 06:42 AM

 

Question-

 

Are these comments in bold more of an indictment of Stewart... or the Twins' developmental staff?

 

 

 

It's a good question. 

 

One on hand... Everybody develops at their own pace and I imagine that things like buy-in are factors. 

 

One the other hand... Where are our Superstars? 

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#9 big dog

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 07:14 AM

Totally agree with above sentiments- when I said I liked what I heard and found it encouraging, I meant some level of growth/maturity in Stewart and an apparent and probably dramatic change in how the organization developed young pitchers.Both changes are potentially very good news for the future.

 

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#10 Doctor Wu

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 07:35 AM

Good article! Some thoughtful, intelligent, and encouraging responses from those various players, especially Kohl Stewart. Here's hoping the right attitude and preparation translates into good results this season.

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#11 Blake

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 07:52 AM

Taylor Rodgers may be one to keep an eye on this year. 

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#12 Tom Froemming

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 08:17 AM

This is total speculation, but my guess is here's sort of how Stewart has been handled:

 

2013: Draft year, let's just help this kid get used to being away from home.

2014: First full season, let's get this kid used to having a game on the schedule every day.

2015: Alright, a 3.20 ERA as a 20-year-old in the FSL. Not going to mess with that.

2016: Alright, a 3.03 ERA as a 21-year-old in Double-A. Not going to mess with that.

2017: This may have been the opportune time to give him some extra attention, but the front office change and following improvements to the coaching staff/analytics department was just starting.

 

I'm sure Stewart got plenty of instruction during this time, but not to that level that he had to being 2018. Another thing to consider is maybe the Kalks and Maiks of the organization only have so much time. I can't imagine they can do a similar meeting they had with Stewart with every pitcher in the org, even if they wanted to.

 

Also, I think sometimes it's good to wait for a guy to fail until trying to convince him he needs to make changes. Let him learn that he's going to need to adjust. It's a two-way street.

 

Again, that's all just a theory.

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#13 dbminn

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 08:23 AM

Excellent article, Tom. I really like how the comments progress from the young prospects to the ones in AAA. A nice summary of the learning process.

 

A lot of good comments have already been added about Stewart. He will only be 24 yrs old for all of 2019, so there's a chance. That's a big difference from last Winter, at least as far as I view him.

 

 

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#14 ashbury

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 08:24 AM

Also, I think sometimes it's good to wait for a guy to fail until trying to convince him he needs to make changes. Let him learn that he's going to need to adjust. It's a two-way street.

I don't buy this. If you wait too long, he could wind up having a Hall of Fame career before you even get a chance to offer him the benefit of your wisdom. :)

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#15 JLease

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 08:49 AM

Lot of interesting quotes here. I like that Stewart seems to have a good feel for the position he's in: might compete for the 5th spot, probably starts off in AAA, needs to position himself to be ready when he gets his shot or to force the team to give him a shot. I think he's an interesting pitcher; he's doing a good job inducing weak contact, so if he can find a way to miss a few more bats he's got a real chance for success with this approach. It can be a challenge developing a pitcher straight out of high school, but despite Stewart falling off the top prospect lists, he''s got a real chance to be a solid rotation piece.

 

 

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#16 birdwatcher

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 09:09 AM

 

Totally agree with above sentiments- when I said I liked what I heard and found it encouraging, I meant some level of growth/maturity in Stewart and an apparent and probably dramatic change in how the organization developed young pitchers.Both changes are potentially very good news for the future.

 

 

Yeah, my guess is that his extended struggles to convert his considerable talent into effective skills has been a function of both his maturity and imperfect coaching. I wonder how much these newer tech tools like Rapsodo are gong to change things, for Stewart and lots of other pitching prospects league-wide. I'm excited about what Stewart's comments hint at with regard to Falvey's overhaul of the development process. He may not give the organization an advantage, but it sounds like maybe we're done being at a disadvantage regarding pitcher development.

 

Great post here by jokin. And another fabulous article by Mr. Froemming.

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#17 jokin

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 09:12 AM

 

This is total speculation, but my guess is here's sort of how Stewart has been handled:

 

2013: Draft year, let's just help this kid get used to being away from home.

2014: First full season, let's get this kid used to having a game on the schedule every day.

2015: Alright, a 3.20 ERA as a 20-year-old in the FSL. Not going to mess with that.

2016: Alright, a 3.03 ERA as a 21-year-old in Double-A. Not going to mess with that.

2017: This may have been the opportune time to give him some extra attention, but the front office change and following improvements to the coaching staff/analytics department was just starting.

 

I'm sure Stewart got plenty of instruction during this time, but not to that level that he had to being 2018. Another thing to consider is maybe the Kalks and Maiks of the organization only have so much time. I can't imagine they can do a similar meeting they had with Stewart with every pitcher in the org, even if they wanted to.

 

Also, I think sometimes it's good to wait for a guy to fail until trying to convince him he needs to make changes. Let him learn that he's going to need to adjust. It's a two-way street.

 

Again, that's all just a theory.

 

I don't buy this. If you wait too long, he could wind up having a Hall of Fame career before you even get a chance to offer him the benefit of your wisdom. :)

 

The problem with this theory is that it was fairly obvious to most on Twins Daily, and elsewhere, that the Stewart "success" in 2015-16 was largely illusory. His peripherals were screaming for major intervention- if- they were going to salvage anything close to an expected rate of return on a #4 overall pick in the draft.

 

Perhaps his struggles in 2017 can be attributed to the first attempted salvage operation implemented by the new FO. It's apparent that 2014-16 were to some extent a waste of developmental time- and given Stewart's current "prospect/suspect" status at age 24 with the clock ticking, a decision on his future with the Twins- and the fate of their multi-million dollar investment, has to be made without knowing for certain if he is deservedly in the long-term plans or not.

Edited by jokin, 29 January 2019 - 09:16 AM.

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#18 Seth Stohs

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 09:12 AM

 

While interviewing Lewis Thorpe, Dick Bremer mentioned that his son Eric was broadcasting games for the Brisbane Bandits in the Australian Baseball League. Bremer asked “is he eating well, is he doing OK?” Thorpe, who did color commentary alongside Bremer’s son for a few games, replied “yeah, he’s doing well, he hasn’t got eaten by a crocodile or anything like that” in his amazing Australian accent.

 

At the Diamond Awards on Thursday night, Bremer asked Thorpe about his son... He slipped him a $20 and told him to take his son out to eat when he goes back.

 

It's funny, of course, though Thorpe did give the money back since, you know, Thorpe told me that he has been in Ft. Myers for about three week already and will be staying there right up until spring training. 

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#19 MMMordabito

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 09:13 AM

 

I’m encouraged by Stewart’s results and his new found support, however I’m with you.

What took so long?

Sometimes it takes a new voice, just like the change of scenery effect, but gosh why didn’t the old FO (or Falvey and Levine) figure out earlier that the coaching voices weren’t effective?

 

In all fairness, if ST 2018 was the point at which a plan that made sense to Stewart and caused him to "buy in", then perhaps the work the new FO did over the course of their first year started paying off.Sure, it would have been nice to get that input after that first short off-season, but it's still a much shorter timeframe than the first four years of apparent lack of direction.

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#20 jokin

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 09:24 AM

 

 

Yeah, my guess is that his extended struggles to convert his considerable talent into effective skills has been a function of both his maturity and imperfect coaching. I wonder how much these newer tech tools like Rapsodo are gong to change things, for Stewart and lots of other pitching prospects league-wide. I'm excited about what Stewart's comments hint at with regard to Falvey's overhaul of the development process. He may not give the organization an advantage, but it sounds like maybe we're done being at a disadvantage regarding pitcher development.

 

Great post here by jokin. And another fabulous article by Mr. Froemming.

 

Yep. I must admit, seeing Kohl for the first time in 2018, was a pleasant surprise. His GB%, weak contact skills and legitimately good stuff on a couple of his pitches gives me some hope, particularly when the IF defense is upgraded with Lewis/Javier/Gordon.

 

I also look forward to no longer pulling my hair out watching, waiting, hoping through 6 long years on the farm, that top young arms are still not ready to attack major league bats. Studies have shown that getting the best arms up sooner is the key to maximizing their career-length and effectiveness-longevity.

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