The 25th overall pick last June, Stewart is trying to find the form that saw him hit .351 and .318 his last two seasons at Florida State. He was named the 2014 ACC Player of the Year.
But the left-handed-hitting left fielder hit just .218 last year at short season Single-A Aberdeen in his pro debut. In 62 games this season with Delmarva before the promotion to the Keys he was batting .230 with four homers, 25 RBIs and a .719 OPS.
I asked O’s director of player development Brian Graham the reasons behind Stewart’s move to Frederick.
“He’s a first-round pick out of a major college,” Graham said. “And it’s an opportunity to start fresh with a brand new batting average. He has the tools and the ability, it just has to translate.
“I think he needs to find some consistency with his swing. D.J. has a great work ethic. He’s got bat speed. He’s got strength and he understands the strikezone. He’s got to find that consistency with this swing and when that happens he has a chance to be a good hitter.”
Stewart hit out of a very low crouch at Florida State. He hit more upright earlier this year in his batting stance after tweaking the stance at instructional league last fall. For now his stance is still a work in progress.
“He seems to still be adjusting,” Graham said. “There are times when he is lower in his stance and times when he is higher. You know, hitters make adjustments. D.J. needs to find a spot that is comfortable for him and the spot that is going to allow him to be a good hitter.”
Did the Orioles have any concerns about moving Stewart up a level with his stats being what they were at Delmarva?
“People might read into this too much,” Graham said. “This is a good player that is a good hitter and this is a new opportunity for him. Don’t overthink or read into it too much. We like D.J. He’s a good hitter and a good player. Let’s put him at this level and see how he competes.”
Stewart has hit safely in all four games so far with Frederick, going 5-for-16 (.313) with two doubles and two RBIs. He is 4-for-9 versus right-handed pitching. He made three starts in left field and last night started in center field for Frederick.
Elsewhere on the farm:
* Orioles 2013 first-round pick, right-hander Hunter Harvey, made a successful return to the mound on Saturday in the Gulf Coast League. Over two scoreless innings he fanned five batters. It was his first minor league game since July 25, 2014.
“I saw Hunter pitch and it was really good,” Graham said after seeing that outing in person. “He is healthy and threw free and easy. Ball came out of his hand well and he threw strikes with good velocity.”
Harvey missed time with a strained right flexor mass and fractured fibula. And then in May he had another health issue and underwent sports hernia surgery.
But the organization’s No. 2 ranked prospect according to Baseball America is finally back. He will throw two to three innings on Wednesday in the GCL and after that could be ready to enter a team’s five-man rotation. A move to short season Single-A Aberdeen is possible. If all goes well he could certainly move to Frederick, where he had been expected to start this year.
* Outfielder Austin Hays, taken by the Orioles earlier this month in the third round of the draft, has missed a few Aberdeen games with a sprained wrist. He got hurt sliding head first into a base. The injury does not appear to be serious and X-rays were negative. Hays made a strong debut, going 5-for-8 with a double and triple in his first two IronBirds games.
* Double-A Bowie pitcher Chris Lee is taking part in a throwing program right now and Graham said he feels great. Lee went on the Baysox DL June 5 with a lat strain. Lee has not started for Bowie since May 23. He is 5-0 with a 2.98 ERA in eight games and is ranked by Baseball America as the Orioles’ No. 6 prospect.
“Right now it’s to be determined when he pitches (in a game) again,” Graham said.
Lee could make a rehab start or two at a lower minor level when he returns before rejoining the Bowie club.
* Right-hander Parker Bridwell, another Baysox starter on the DL, will return to a pitch in a game this week. On the disabled list since May 26 with broken ribs, Bridwell will pitch Wednesday in the CGL game. It may be just an inning as he begins to work his way back. Like Lee, Bridwell is on the Orioles 40-man roster. He is 1-1 with a 5.13 ERA this year for Bowie.
Back when Bridwell went on the DL, Orioles manager Buck Showalter talked about the right-hander.
“He has a broken rib,” Showalter said. “He actually pitched his last start with it. You know those West Texas guys - Parker’s a tough bird. That is why I like him. I would not sell him short. I really like him. I think he’s going to be a good bullpen piece. I do,” Showalter said then.
* When he was in Florida recently watching the Gulf Coast League team, Graham saw pitcher Cody Sedlock throw his first bullpen session. The 21-year-old right-hander was the Orioles’ top draft pick this year, taken 27th overall, out of the University of Illinois. He was signed to a slot bonus of $2,097,200.
“It was really impressive,” Graham said. “Good body, good arm. Ball comes out of his hand well. Threw a lot of strikes with plus velocity. It was impressive. He’s on a (throwing) progression. He threw 100 innings in college. I’m guessing he’ll go into a five or six-man rotation at some point in Aberdeen when he gets ready and he probably won’t pitch a lot of innings.”
Sedlock has to continue the throwing progression with another bullpen or two followed by throwing live practice and then a simulated game or two before he moves to Aberdeen.
O’s second-round draft pick, left-hander Keegan Akin out of Western Michigan University, will go through the same throwing progression in Florida. He hasn’t throw his first bullpen session yet.
Draft notes: The Orioles have annouced the signings of 25 draft picks so far. They have not announced the signing yet of right-handed pitcher Matthew Dietz, their second-round pick, but MLBPipeline.com’s Jim Callis reported they have agreed to an overslot bonus worth $1.3 million. An industry source confirmed the Callis report. With Dietz done, the Orioles have agreements/signings with their top six picks and with 12 of their first 16 picks over the first 15 rounds.
A source indicated the Orioles are closing in on two other signings and those are with sixth-round pick, right-handed pitcher Tobias Myers from Winter Haven (Fla.) High School and also with eighth-round pick, right-handed pitcher Ryan Moseley out of Texas Tech. That would mean they have agreements with 14 of the first 16 picks when those deals get fully completed.
The Orioles continue to pursue their seventh-round pick, NC State first baseman Preston Palmeiro, who is the son of former Oriole Rafael Palmeiro. They are also negotiating with 13th-round pick, left-handed pitcher Brandon Bonilla of Hawaii Pacific, son of former Oriole Bobby Bonilla. Right now the O’s don’t appear close to signing either Palmeiro or Bonilla.
The Orioles’ 17th-round selection, left-handed pitcher Tyler Blohm out of Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Md., has a firm college commitment to the University of Maryland. But the Orioles still feel they have a chance to sign him.
The Orioles will likely wind up signing a total of about 32 or 33 players from a draft class of 41 players that included 27 pitchers and 14 position players and 31 college selections.
Joseph in Frederick: For the first time since his injury, the Orioles’ Caleb Joseph played behind the plate last night. He caught eight innings for the Single-A Frederick Keys, going 0-for-3 with a sac fly and he threw out one of two attempting base stealers.
Joseph took a foul ball to the groin area on May 30, sustaining a testicular injury that required surgery. While he had served as a DH for both Frederick and Double-A Bowie, last night was the first time he caught since the injury.
“It was good, felt great,” Joseph told reporters at Harry Grove Stadium. “There were a few pitches against left-handed hitters we were trying to elevate the ball to the same exact location, it crossed my mind a few times. But we’re still living to tell about it. It was a good first step.”
Does Joseph feel ready now to rejoin the Orioles?
“I’m going to have to make a few phone calls here. I felt really good. I expected to feel good, but I felt better than I anticipated,” Joseph said.
Now he should return to the Orioles at some point over the next few days.
Frederick scored twice in the last of the ninth last night to win that game over Carolina 6-5 at Nymeo Field. The Keys trailed 5-1 in the third inning and posted their third walk-off win of the year on Cam Kneeland’s double. It is the largest comeback win of the year for Frederick.
Thanks to reporter Greg Swatek of the Frederick News-Post for passing along some quotes from Joseph’s night in Frederick.