The Royals announced agreement with righty Kohl Stewart on a minor league deal this afternoon. Anne Rogers of MLB.com tweets that Stewart isn’t likely to be in big league camp as he continues to rehab from an elbow injury that cut his 2021 season short.
Stewart sat out the entire 2022 campaign, ostensibly due to the aforementioned elbow concern. It’s not clear whether he ever underwent surgery or attempted to rehab without going under the knife. In either event, Stewart hasn’t thrown a competitive pitch since the Cubs placed him on the 60-day injured list in July 2021 with what the club announced as elbow inflammation. Chicago ran him through outright waivers at the start of that offseason rather than reinstate him to their 40-man roster. He remained a minor league free agent until today.
The 28-year-old is a former top five draftee, going fourth overall to the Twins in 2013. Stewart spent five seasons climbing the minor league ladder before briefly appearing at the MLB level with Minnesota between 2018-19. He started six of 19 appearances over those two years, working to a 4.79 ERA through 62 innings. The Twins let him go at the end of the latter season, and he hooked on with the Orioles on a split deal.
Stewart, a Type 1 diabetic, opted out of the 2020 campaign due to concerns over COVID-19. He never threw a pitch as an Oriole, as the team let him go at the end of the year. As a free agent, he found a big league deal with the Cubs. Stewart started three of four outings with Chicago, allowing 12 runs in 13 2/3 innings before the injury issues intervened.
All told, the Houston native owns a 4.88 ERA over 75 2/3 major league frames. He’s fanned a below-average 13.6% of opponents against a slightly elevated 9.6% walk rate. Over parts of four Triple-A campaigns, he owns a 4.65 ERA in 162 2/3 innings. The sinkerballer had a strong prospect pedigree for a while, however, and he’s induced grounders on over half the batted balls he’s allowed in the big leagues.
Precisely when Stewart will be ready for a return to pitching isn’t clear. Once he’s healthy, he’ll offer the Royals some rotation or long relief depth. He’ll presumably head to Triple-A Omaha at some point during the 2023 season and try to work back to the MLB level.