2015 First Round Pick, OF D.J. Stewart Improving at the Plate

Baltimore Orioles' prospect, and current Frederick Keys outfielder D.J. Stewart has made some very nice improvements at the plate this season, and should calm some O's fans down a little bit.

Photo: Patrick Cavey

Stewart, 22, was the Orioles' first round selection (25th overall) in the 2015 MLB Draft out of Florida State and received a slot value signing bonus of just over $2 million. I currently have him ranked as the seventh best prospect in the O's system.

With the first round label and that kind of signing bonus, O's fans rightfully had high expectations for Stewart.

In 2015, after being drafted and signing, Stewart played the season with the Short-Season A Aberdeen Ironbirds. It did not go as planned for Stewart as he struggled mightily at the plate hitting just .218 with six home runs, eight doubles, two triples, 24 RBI and scored 25 runs in 62 games. He did show his ability to take a walk as he drew 23 of them, but needless to say, it wasn't the start Stewart or O's fans wanted out of their top pick.

Heading into the 2016 season, it was anticipated that Stewart would begin the season, his first full professional season, with the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds and the hope was that with some slight changes to his batting stance, he would begin to show the bat that made him a first round pick.

Unfortunately, Stewart did not get off to a good start with Delmarva this year either. He played 62 games with the Shorebirds and hit .230 with four home runs, 12 doubles, one triple, 25 RBI and scored 27 runs. Again though, he showed a good eye at the plate drawing 42 walks to help him boast a .366 on base percentage.

After 62 games, the Orioles decided to promote Stewart to High-A Frederick, and that's where we begin to see the improvements at the plate.

Through 46 games with the Keys, Stewart is hitting .283 with four home runs, 10 doubles, two triples, 27 RBI and 33 runs scored to go along with a very nice .388 OBP and a .835 OPS.

So what's been the biggest improvement?

In 2015 with the Ironbirds, Stewart hit just .203 against right handed pitchers, which was a bit odd considering he hits left handed (throws right handed). In his 62 games with the Shorebirds this season, Stewart was hitting .245 against righties, which was an improvement, but still not near the number you would expect.

Since joining the Keys in June, Stewart has hit .313 against right handed pitchers and sports a .414 OBP and a .914 OPS.

Why the vast improvement at a higher level? Hard to pin-point as it could be a number of things. Stewart could finally be completely comfortable with his batting stance change, or it could be the old adage that good hitters perform better the higher level they face as pitchers are more likely to be around the strike zone.

Whatever the reason is, Stewart is beginning to show why he was a first round pick and that's good news for Stewart, the Orioles and their fans.


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