The 2018 MLB Draft begins June 4th with the San Diego Padres selecting seventh overall. Let’s take a look at a second option for who the Padres should select in this year’s draft.
For the first installment of our MLB Draft previews, we introduced you to one player the San Diego Padres should select in the first round of this year’s draft. You can check out that full report here.
While that piece focuses on a potential hitting prospect, let’s turn our attention to one pitching prospect the Padres need to take a serious look at in the first round, RHP Carter Stewart.
Stewart is a 6’6″ right-handed pitcher out of Eau Gallie High School in Melbourne, Florida who owns one of the most dominant curveballs at any level of baseball, including the major leagues.
According to Baseball America, Stewart’s curveball produces a spin rate of over 3,000 revolutions. Only six pitchers in Major League Baseball have an average spin rate higher than 3,000 on their curveball (Garrett Richards, Ryan Pressly, Jackson Stephens, Seth Lugo, Sam Dyson, and Chris Stratton). Nearly every report on Stewart agrees that his curveball is a true double-plus pitch and is the best in the entire draft class.
Taking a right-handed arm out of the prep ranks with the seventh overall pick is risky, however, Stewart may have one of the highest, if not the highest, upside of any pitcher in the draft. With a farm system overflowing with left-handed pitching talent, the San Diego Padres would be smart by adding a little right-handed depth.
Melissa Lockard of The Athletic (subscription required) compared Stewart to a young Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher,
"Stewart is a big, physical right-hander who has a similar frame and upside to current Pirates’ right-hander Jameson Taillon. Stewart’s curveball is the best in the prep class and his fastball has already reached 97 mph."
Stewart’s fastball routinely sits at 93-94 mph but Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has said that Stewart reaches back to hit 97-98 mph a few times in every start. He does have a third pitch, a changeup, he just hasn’t used it much during in-game action. Both MLB Pipeline and John Sickels agree that his changeup will be major league quality once he begins using it in short-season ball.
Cause for concern and impact Carter Stewart may have.
If there is one cause for concern with Carter Stewart, it’s injury risk. You can say that about every pitcher taken in the draft, however, Stewart’s risk may be higher. His delivery isn’t as violent as a young Hunter Harvey (Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect who has suffered through five seasons of injuries) but if you look at the first video above you can see how he comes down hard over top his elbow.
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Stewart also added 10+ mph of velocity on his fastball within one year (according to John Sickels) which is something to keep an eye on.
While he’s a high-risk pick, he could pan out to be the prized pick of the 2018 draft, should he develop properly. The San Diego Padres currently have the following right-handed pitchers in their Top 30 Prospects list: Cal Quantrill, Michel Baez, Anderson Espinoza, Jacob Nix, Trey Wingenter, Andres Munoz, Chris Paddack, Mason Thompson, Pedro Avila, David Bednar, and Reggie Lawson.
Wingenter and Bednar are making their way through the system as relievers while Nix (groin), Munoz (UCL sprain), and Espinoza (Tommy John) have yet to pitch this season.
Adding another right-hander isn’t a bad option, considering the injuries listed above and questions surrounding Quantrill, the top-ranked RHP in the system.
It’s clear that Carter Stewart will be a top 10 pick in this year’s draft (top 15 at worst) and bypass his commitment to Mississippi State University. Armed with a 65-grade fastball and curveball, a 50-grade changeup, and 50-grade control (MLB Pipeline) the Padres should use their seventh overall pick on the prep-star if he falls low enough.