Powers: Twins’ prospect Stewart has a little star power
By Tom Powers
St. Paul Pioneer Press
FORT MYERS, Fla. — He was the heir apparent to quarterback Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M and on Wednesday he could have been strutting around College Station, maybe even partying with Johnny Football himself.
Instead, Kohl Stewart was running laps around a sunbaked baseball field at the very far end of the Lee County Sports Complex.
“I love being on campus and I love being around the guys,” Stewart said. “But my place has always been on the mound.”
The Twins drafted Stewart fourth overall last year, straight out of St. Pius X High School in Houston. That in itself was a bit of an organizational oddity. The Twins draft control pitchers, sinkerball pitchers, pitchers who hold the ball with their little pinky sticking out as if they were drinking a proper cup of tea.
Kohl Stewart is a flame-thrower, a right-hander with a power arm. After notifying Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin that he was backing out of his letter of intent so he could play baseball, Stewart set the Gulf Coast League on its ear late last summer. In 20 innings, both as a starter and reliever, he struck
out 24, walked just four and compiled a 1.69 earned-run average. Promoted to Elizabethton for one start at the tail end of the season, he struck out eight during four shutout innings.
Stewart is 19 years old, and it’s a long way from there to here. Yet he already has that little bit of star presence about him. Dozens and dozens of minor league pitchers, wearing identical blue shorts and tops, sweated through their first workout on Wednesday. A handful of kids waited on the sideline. It was Stewart they descended upon as the great group trudged toward the showers. It’s part of the two-sport star mystique.
“I think football made my arm stronger, for sure,” Stewart said. “As many times as I threw the football every day, I think that definitely helped my arm, just because it was a heavier object and it didn’t take as much motion.”
The Twins are sky high on him, and all the national prospect lists make prime mention of Stewart.
“He’s a great athlete, obviously; a football recruit and all that,” said farm director Brad Steil. “You can see that he’s really put in a lot of work training in the offseason, too. We’re going to see where he fits in.”
He might even skip Elizabethton and start at low-A Cedar Rapids. Stewart throws in the mid-90s and has gotten as high as 97. He has a mature, hard-breaking slider that overmatched GCL hitters last season. No doubt the Twins soon will have him fooling around with junk, off-speed pitches, too.
Stewart prides himself on bringing the heat and says that as he physically develops, his velocity is rising.
“Just from my sophomore year to now it’s night and day,” he said. “Especially on a consistent basis, and not just having a couple of high radar-gun hits. There are more miles (per hour) there as I grow into my body. Just repeating my delivery, there are more miles there.”
My guess is that not getting crunched by blitzing linebackers will accelerate his baseball development. He also can now concentrate on just one thing.
“But I think there are similarities between quarterbacking and pitching,” he said. “I think it’s a man-on-man kind of game. I think it’s me versus the defense, and here it’s me versus the hitter. So I think the mindset is the same. Pitching and quarterbacking are complementary.”
The Twins coughed up a $4.54 million bonus to sign Stewart, which is a big deal, of course. Still, his parents are A&M alumni and so there was that pull to quarterback the Aggies.
“But my parents kind of knew that it came to a time where, if this was the career path I was going to choose, then it was time for me to man up and take it and kind of own it,” he said. “This is a dream for me, and they know that.”
The irony here is that there is at least an outside chance that both Manziel and Stewart might eventually find themselves in the Twins Cities. The Vikings, who obviously need a quarterback, could draft Manziel in April.
“Just kind of being around the program, I’ve hung out with him every now and then,” Stewart noted. “Whatever opportunity he gets, I think he will thrive. He’s got the mind-set to be able to do it every day.”
So instead of following Johnny Football to Texas A&M, he might end up following him to Minnesota.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.