Non-Tender Candidate: Ian Stewart

It's been a little more than nine years since Ian Stewart was selected by the Rockies with the 10th overall pick in the 2003 draft. Selected out of high school, Stewart would spend the next five years ranking between No. 4 and No. 57 on Baseball America's list of Top 100 prospects.

Stewart's production at Triple-A makes it easy to see why he was so highly regarded. In 226 games he's amassed a .291/.373/.540 batting line and homered roughly once every twenty times he's stepped to the plate. The Major Leagues, however, have been another story entirely.

The Rockies gave Stewart more than 1,400 plate appearances to cement himself as a regular, and played him at both third base and second base along the way. The minor league success never fully carried over, as Stewart batted .236/.323/.428 for the Rockies before being traded to the Cubs along with Casey Weathers in exchange for Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu last winter.

Things got worse for Stewart in Chicago, where he batted just .201/.292/.335 in 202 plate appearances before a left wrist injury cut his season short. Stewart earned $2.2375MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility this past offseason. Despite the injury and poor performance, he accumulated more than 200 plate appearances on the season, leading MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to project a slight raise to $2.3MM.

Stewart will turn 28 during the first week of the 2013 season, and his past 338 plate appearances have resulted in a paltry OPS+ of 50. The Cubs have also recalled Josh Vitters, signaling that they're likely ready to explore alternatives to the failed Stewart experiment. It appears very possible that he will reach free agency sooner than he ever anticpated.

In the event that he's non-tendered, Stewart's status as a once elite prospect and his career ISO of .185 at the Major League level could lead an offensively starved team to look at him as a buy-low candidate. It may be a long shot, but it wouldn't be the first time a general manager caught lightning in a bottle, and the signing would come with minimal risk attached.

39 Responses to Non-Tender Candidate: Ian Stewart Leave a Reply

  1. bigpat 3 years ago

    How long can someone hang on because of this mythical “potential”? Even in his best season, he wasn’t that great. 20 HR power but the rest of his stats were meh, even his slugging percentage.

    • Lunchbox45 3 years ago

      how was his potential mythical?

    • j6takish 3 years ago

      Mark Prior has been tricking teams into giving him money for 6 seasons now

    • withpower 3 years ago

      Eh.. he walked at a pretty good clip. Played a pretty good 3B. If he could get back to hitting around .240-.250 he could probably help somebody.

  2. “Stewart’s production at Triple-A makes it easy to see why he was so highly regarded. In 226 games he’s amassed a .291/.373/.540 batting line and homered roughly once every five times he’s stepped to the plate.”

    Stewart has 48 HR in 967 Triple-A plate appearances, roughly 5%. I think that’s what was meant, not once every five times (or an ungodly 20% and 193 HR)?

    • $1529282 3 years ago

      Combined “once every 20 times” with “five percent” apparently.

      Thanks for the catch.

  3. My guess is that they keep him.

  4. Jacob Viets 3 years ago

    Hopefully he can get his career back on track someplace else. I hate seeing former top prospects fail.

  5. Clay 3 years ago

    I would not be sad if Stewart never wore a Cubs uni again!

  6. jb226 3 years ago

    Vitters isn’t showing much in the Majors and I’ve never been sold on him, and they finally found something wrong with Stewart’s wrist that he has been complaining about for two seasons. For $2.3MM I’d give him another half of a season. If he picks it up, having a good third baseman is pretty valuable in this market whether it’s to keep or to trade away.

    • johnsilver 3 years ago

      Vitters is only 23 and sure.. Might need a bit more time. Remember San Diego hastily gave up on Rizzo and Epstein got him for almost nothing after fewer AB’s than Vitters has gotten so far.

      I can’t see paying Stewert 2.3m for false promises when he never really did anything anyway, even at HR happy Coors field where his XBH were 50% of his hit total and he had a 30% K rate. That’s not really promise, especially at 2.3m.

      Epstein is smarter than that IMO.

      • jb226 3 years ago

        The knock on Vitters isn’t that he didn’t come to the Majors and immediately dominate like it was for Rizzo. The knock on Vitters is that he has several major holes in his game and after four relatively full seasons and parts of two additional seasons in the minors, they haven’t improved. He may only be 23 but he’s been in the minors for five years (though admittedly with some injuries thrown in and 2007 being really a cameo).

        Specifically, he is not a good defender and he swings at everything. If he can keep a high batting average that’s okay-ish, but that’s a stat with the potential to fluctuate a lot and since he’s not walking it’s going to tank his OBP with it. Unless he turns out to be Vlad Guerrero his propensity to always swing is something Major League pitchers are going to exploit.

        While it may be premature to give up on Vitters, you have to admit that so far he’s certainly not doing anything in the Majors to suggest the job should be given to him next year*. $2.3MM is nothing for the Cubs, especially right now when they’ve been shedding all kinds of money for several years and really not adding anything back on. Heck, they can more than pay him just from what they save on Soto next year. I see no reason not to give him a half season of ABs and see if he can turn into something valuable (to the Cubs directly or via trade).

        Now with all that said, Dale Sveum needs to get over his man-crush with Luis Valbuena and let Vitters play every day for the rest of the season. There is no reason to bring a kid up like this and have him split playing time with Luis freaking Valbuena. Maybe he can put something together with consistent ABs that changes my mind.

        * Haha, I looked him up to see how bad his line really is right now: .100/.095/.150 with a -35 OPS+).

        • johnsilver 3 years ago

          “Now with all that said, Dale Sveum needs to get over his man-crush with
          Luis Valbuena and let Vitters play every day for the rest of the season.”

          Doesn’t it disgust you when a manager has this like for someone who is of little to no use?? Framcona used to have one 1st of all with Billy Hall, then when Epstein (wisely) refused to bring him back, it moved over to Darnell McDonald and neither should have been playing in the MLB at all then, yet Francona would run those guys up 200 or so PA.

          One can understand managers having this “crush” on players who hustle and give 100% who actually produce a LITTLE BIT at least at the MLB level, but hustling and being useless is another matter.

          • Infield Fly 3 years ago

            Doesn’t it disgust you when a manager has this like for someone who is of little to no use??

            Oh, you mean like Dayton Moore ♥ Jeff Francouer? Now there’s match made somewhere unfortunate (although word does have it that Moore is starting to snap out of it)!

          • johnsilver 3 years ago

            HAHA. yeah, Frenchy is covered under “favored son” status by the owner, so that could be even trickier for KC fans (and management) to get rid of, but I do feel for KC fans having to see frenchy ran out there on a daily basis and Mets fans snickering under their breathe whenever they see his name in a box score every day :-)

            I accidentally left out another “favorite” of Francona earlier.. CoCo Crisp, who WAS a really good ball all around player who got on base and produced nicely for several years. Think Francona kept on looking for hustling players in that mold when he got Hall and McDonald later on, but he just ended up with duds both times.

          • jb226 3 years ago

            Yeah, it’s pretty frustrating. It’s frustrating in general for me to see prospects brought up and not be allowed to play every day. I don’t see how that helps their development, especially when all the talk before they were called up was about how the organization was debating calling them up because if they did they wanted them to play. Meanwhile Vitters just started his 5th game out of 8 appearances in a 10 game stretch. Whaaaaa?

          • johnsilver 3 years ago

            Clear a spot and let him play. What Boston finally did for Lavarnway by moving Shoppach.

            I would think that if Epstein thinks he is ready that he is goin g to send the word down to Sveum, after all.. He was the one who over ruled Francona originally when Pedroia 1st broke into MLB and was AWFUL the 1st 2 months and Francona wanted him gone, but Epstein forced Francona to keep him on the field a bit longer he was so sold on his skill set.

            If Epstein thinks Vitters has a chance, he will have probably over rule Sveum in Chicago again, or would think so and have him keep him on the field, wins aren’t going to help any there and the same in Boston now. I am with you, wanting to see the rookies playing there also..

          • jb226 3 years ago

            As far as I’m concerned the spot is clear already. Vitters is already on the roster and Valbuena isn’t the kind of player you bench somebody for. It’s kind of sad because I think Sveum has done a really nice job overall other than this and I just don’t know what he’s thinking.

            As far as the dynamics between Sveum and Epstein/Hoyer, I’m not sure. Supposedly Vitters is going to be starting more (“at least two of the next three games” I believe was the quote). Whether that came down from on high I can’t say.

  7. >>In the event that he’s non-tendered<<

    Looks like the spell-check turned the word "WHEN" into the phrase "In the event that"…

  8. Not only do I expect Ian Stewart to be non-tendered—I would be surprised if he got a major-league deal. But this is the kind of player that can drive a GM batty: someone who is an AAA star, but who is a bust at the major-league level. Stewart will be an AAA-player for the rest of his career.

    • How good or bad is he as a defensive catcher?
      If he can call a game, he should have a job in MLB.
      To be honest are some careers dying in the Cubs organization?
      You have Ian Stewart, Blake DeWitt is batting a rock solid .127, last year he was hitting .260 and playing a decent 2nd and 3rd base. Felix Pie also comes to mind.
      The bottom line is Stewart is languishing in AAA, why can’t he get a chance to be a back-up on a play-off bound team why wait till next year? I gotta believe he’s better than most of the back-ups out there. I mean the O’s back-up is batting something like .077, I mean that’s not good.

      • If he can be a BACKUP catcher, then he would be reasonable for a team like the Mets, which has Josh Thole as the starter and an absolute disaster in Mike Nickeas as the backup.

      • Tommy Meyers 3 years ago

        He plays third base, not catcher

        • My posting was dreadfully wrong.
          I am trying to figure why I thought he was a catcher in the first place.

          • Drew Tweedie 3 years ago

            Maybe thinking of Chris Ianetta? I used to do that all the time.

          • BradyAndersonsSideburns 3 years ago

            thinking of the Yankees backup catcher Stewart?

  9. Ben Kaplan 3 years ago

    DJ LeMahieu is hitting .302………… Tyler Colvin owns a .282 average to go along with 13hrs and 46 rib. meanwhile stewart is injured and still sucks and Casey Weathers has an era of like 5 something in double a. they better tender stewart because that was one hell of a lopsided trade. On a side note Brett Jackson looks like an even worse version of corey patterson and vitters doesn’t seem like he’ll amount to much either.

    • withpower 3 years ago

      I didn’t really understand why the Cubs traded Colvin. Yeah, he was terrible last year, but he was really useful the year before that.

      • WrigleyTerror37 3 years ago

        they sold way low on colvin. she claimed he was fine. but that injury with the bat going into his chest. that stays with you for a while. so thats why his 2011 was bad, he was probably afraid of it happening again. now in 2012 hes over it and excelling

  10. crashcameron 3 years ago

    stewart’s one of those guys that will get another shot or two or three because of high draft status and triple A (not to mention a fairly rare lefty bat at third). some team is going to think they will be the one to spark his inner Bautista and find a mojo. and some team just might. (A’s maybe?)

  11. Lunchbox45 3 years ago

    good catch, and clever post. still think the general writing is pretty accurate and informative on this site though.

  12. Rynocerous 3 years ago

    Stewart’s been a disappointment, I’ll give you that. Volstad was a throw-in for anyone taking Zambrano off our hands. DeJesus was a cheap signing and has played average ball this year. The return on Dempster was going to be severely limited after he blocked the trade to the Braves. Byrd and Soto are hitting .210/.243/.275 and .194/.278/.340 this year, respectively. What was he ever going to get for them?

  13. scott brecht 3 years ago

    and what about the 2nd one?

  14. Jwick22 3 years ago

    he got soler on the cheap. got my favorite braves prospect in arodys. unloaded big z. got rizzo.

  15. crashcameron 3 years ago

    epstein isnt the GM. hoyer is.

  16. withpower 3 years ago

    Didn’t they win that one after a lot of the off-season personnel moves were handled by others when Epstein quit for a while?

  17. missyae 3 years ago

    They should and probably will keep him. If not, Red Sox would be nice!!!!

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