MINNEAPOLIS — A storm in the Houston area knocked out the satellite TV
service at Kohl Stewart’s home on Thursday, so the high school pitcher had to
take out his cell phone to follow along with the Major League Baseball Draft.
There was no surprise, though, when Stewart was taken fourth
overall by the Minnesota Twins. After the first three picks of the draft went
as expected, the Twins made the Texas native their guy.
“One of the craziest feelings I’ve ever felt,”
Stewart said Thursday in a conference call, shortly after he was drafted. “There
was a lot of different scenarios that I kind of envisioned. I definitely
thought the Twins were probably the best bet for me.”
The 18-year-old Stewart measures 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and
has a four-pitch mix. His fastball can touch 97 mph on the radar gun. He also throws a slider, changeup and a curveball, which he began throwing during
his senior season. Stewart added that he’s also been experimenting with
throwing a sinker.
In 40 innings this year, Stewart had a 5-1 record with a
miniscule 0.18 ERA while striking out 59 batters and walking 16.
“He’s a tremendous athlete,” said Twins scouting
director Deron Johnson. “He’s a tremendous competitor, fierce competitor.
I saw him on three occasions. He didn’t have his best stuff in the semifinals
of the state tournament, but he willed his team to win. We love his makeup.”
There’s still the elephant in the room with Stewart.
sign with the Twins and begin his baseball career or will he head to Texas
A&M, where he signed a letter of intent to play football? Stewart was a
star quarterback in the football-obsessed state of Texas and was ranked as a
four-star recruit by Scout.com.
Of course, Texas A&M already has a pretty good
quarterback in Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, and top quarterback
recruit Kyle Allen just committed to play for the Aggies earlier this week.
The Twins are convinced that Stewart’s football days are
“He’s signing,” Johnson said. “He wants to be
a major league baseball player.”
Stewart was asked about it on Thursday’s conference call. He
wouldn’t commit one way or the other, but indicated that baseball is in his
“Obviously the Twins, they picked me and they expect me
to sign,” Stewart said. “I’m not going to say 100 percent for sure,
but I’m looking forward to joining the Twins organization. … Football’s kind of
always taken rank over baseball, especially in high school just because of
football being so demanding and such a big deal down here in Texas.
“But I look
forward to being able to just sit down and work on baseball for once because I’ve
never really been able to do that.”
Stewart was the first high school player taken Thursday. Houston
selected Stanford pitcher Mark Appel with the first overall pick. Chicago
followed by drafting University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant, and the
Colorado Rockies preceded Minnesota’s pick by taking pitcher Jonathan Gray of Oklahoma.
Leading up to the draft, the Twins said they would take the
player they felt was the best available regardless of position. While Minnesota
needs pitching, it also happened that Stewart ranked high on their list.
“He was the best prospect on the board left for us,”
Johnson said. “He just so happened to be a high school right-hander.”
Stewart is the first pitcher taken by the Twins in the first
round since 2010 when they drafted Ohio State’s Alex Wimmers with the 21st
overall pick. A year ago, Minnesota took Georgia high school outfielder Byron
Buxton with the No. 2 pick. The year before that, it was North Carolina
shortstop Levi Michael.
While the Twins need pitching at the major league level, it’s
important to remember that baseball draft picks often take years before reaching
the majors — if they get that chance at all. Stewart certainly has high upside
but will need several years in the minor leagues to develop before making an
impact in Minnesota.
Still, the 18-year-old Stewart was thrilled to hear his name
picked fourth on Thursday. Immediately after the pick, he took to Twitter
(@KohlStewart1) to tweet: “WHAT’S UP TWIN NATION!!!!”
“I think there’s an extreme loyalty within that
organization,” Stewart said of the Twins. “I think that they’re committed to
winning and I think they’re looking for ways for that organization to reach the
“I’m committed to being a part of that organization and work my
way up and grind it out until my name is called. Hopefully I can one day help
the Twins become one of the winningest franchises in the league.”