Champ Stuart: Toolsy Outfielder On Verge Of Breakout?
New York Mets prospect Champ Stuart isn’t the typical South Atlantic League prospect covered at ROTOscouting. Drafted in the 6th round (2013) out of tiny Brevard College in North Carolina, the Bahamian born Stuart’s advanced age (21) and slash line (.256/.341/.340) isn’t special. In the South Atlantic League, rosters are full of similar players from a statistical standpoint. However, dismissing the outfielder would be a scouting mistake. Stuart’s physical tools scream future Major League center fielder. Can Champ Stuart break out and develop into a viable center field candidate for the Mets?
Stuart is the type of elite athlete baseball loses to other sports. Listed at an even six feet and 175 pounds, the Savannah Sand Gnats center fielder has a sprinter’s body with thick quads and lean calves. Stuart’s upper half is slim, but strong development in his forearms and biceps hints at a player who hits the weight room regularly. The Bahamian has narrow shoulders and adding additional upper body size should prove difficult.
The right-handed hitter is the fastest prospect scouted this season. A plus-plus runner, Stuart’s home to first times range from 4.08 to 4.15 seconds. His 29 steals in 34 attempts (85% success rate) indicate advanced base running instincts. On a base stealing attempt, Stuart read Rome Braves pitcher Steve Janas‘ first movement towards home plate and was off to the races. Catcher Sal Giardina should have eaten the baseball instead of attempting a throw. Stuart will run through the lower minors and post gaudy stolen base numbers.
Other facets of the 21-year-old’s game are under construction. His glove work is improved from a 2013 look with Kingsport. Stuart is quick to react, but tracking balls and running routes is a challenge. At present, speed makes up for the deficiency.
The center fielder has a strong throwing arm. In pregame work, Stuart crow-hopped and fired strikes to third base and home plate. Staying square to his target, the throws had little arc and came in on a line. In game action, throws were not a strong due to footwork and a tendency to rush.
At the plate, Stuart’s swing is complex, but he possesses a quiet load. Still, Stuart generates impressive bat speed by keeping his left relaxed, allowing him to snap the top hand. Quick hands allow the bat to stay inside the baseball, resulting in a compact swing.
His pitch recognition skills improved dramatically in a calender year. However, Stuart still chases pitches down out of the zone. With limited ability to work on pitch recognition in the smaller South Atlantic Collegiate Conference, the Brevard College alumnus has limited exposure to quality off-speed pitches. A high strikeout rate due to chasing breaking balls will be an obstacle for Stewart to overcome.
Only 13 of his 73 hits (18%) went for extra base hits in 2014 — surprising for a hitter with strength and swing extension. Lunging when anticipating off-speed pitches, resulting in a front foot hitter is one cause, but it doesn’t explain everything. Stuart doesn’t transfer his weight efficiently. The outfielder’s front leg collapses as his hands, hips and bat fire through the zone. Inability to keep a firm front side is the key cause of his power outage.
Champ Stuart is an intriguing prospect. Few players possess the center fielder’s raw tools. Fewer can mold their raw tools into a complete package. Stuart’s progression from raw athlete to baseball player is incomplete, but strides made this season suggests the Mets’ gamble is beginning to pay off. Stuart’s job is to build on it by improving pitch recognition through repetition and carrying over strong practice habits to game situations. If he does these two things, Stuart has the athleticism to become a top prospect in the organization.
Tool Present Future Projected Role 2nd Division Starting Center Fielder Hitting Ability 20 40 Power 20 35 Speed 70 70 Fielding Ability 40 55 Arm 60 65
Owning Champ Stuart
Speed, athleticism and the ability to stick in center field? Sold! Kind of… In the deepest dynasty leagues where center field eligibility matters and hundreds of prospects are owned, Stuart is worth a speculative add. In shallow formats, he can be added to watch lists just so the name isn’t forgotten by next spring. When at the ballpark, it’s rare for a college player to present as “toolsy”, so stumbling upon Champ Stuart is worth discussing. Additionally, Stuart being a little old for the South Atlantic League isn’t too concerning considering things tend to click for athletes-turned-baseball players at different times. When in doubt, strike early and keep churning through the final few roster spots until things come up aces.
3 Sep 2014 / Chris Blessing /
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