Tennessee product boasts emerging power bat, good plate discipline
By Alejandro Zuniga
DETROIT -- In selecting outfielder Christin Stewart on Monday with the No. 34 overall pick of the Draft, the Tigers opted for a left-handed hitter whose strengths at the plate could overshadow average defense.
Stewart, who ranks 66th on MLB.com's list of Top 200 Draft prospects, hit .311 with 15 home runs as a junior at the University of Tennessee this year. The Volunteers' only First-Team All-SEC selection, Stewart placed near the top of his conference in slugging percentage (.633) and on-base percentage (.443).
"We've been scouting Christin since high school," Tigers vice president of amateur scouting David Chadd said in a Tuesday morning conference call. "He tied the Georgia high school state record in home runs with 44. We watched his progression with Tennessee and Team USA.
"It's a combination of power and ability to hit, which is a great tool that we obviously like when looking for hitters. He's athletic. We see him as a 5-6 type hitter in the order, which is hard to find in the Draft."
The pick comes with a signing bonus value of $1,795,100. The Tigers have a total bonus pool of $7,114,300, according to Baseball America.
Stewart, who is listed at 6-foot, 205 pounds, hasn't always been a power bat. He hit just eight home runs in his freshman and sophomore years combined, but his average never dipped below .310. The three-year starter also worked 28 walks last season, 13 more than in 2014, while reducing his strikeouts.
Tennessee coach Dave Serrano praised Stewart's mental fortitude before the junior's breakout year.
"Obviously, he has some God-given ability," Serrano told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "But Stewy doesn't think in the box. He doesn't think ... I think his mentality is, 'See-ball, hit-ball, swing the bat hard.'"
Stewart went undrafted out of high school despite setting the state of Georgia's single-season home run record while at Providence Christian Academy. He hit .383/.474/.605 with USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team last summer but projects as a left fielder because of limited speed and arm strength, according to Baseball America.
Detroit selected Beau Burrows, a hard-throwing righty from Weatherford (Texas) High School, with the No. 22 overall pick.
The Tigers have a history of drafting power arms. Including Burrows, 11 of their first-round picks since the 2000 Draft have been pitchers. However, vice president of amateur scouting David Chadd insisted on Sunday that the club would pick the best available players with its selections.
Detroit also nabbed an outfielder in the first round last summer, drafting high schooler Derek Hill.
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.