Prospect Retro: Shannon Stewart
Shannon Stewart was drafted in the first round in 1992, 19th overall, out of high school in Florida. Considered a somewhat raw speed demon outfielder with untapped power potential, he hit just .233/.333/.256 in 50 games in rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League that year. Only two of his 40 hits were for extra bases. He did steal 32 bases and draw 24 walks in 172 at-bats, but it was also apparent that he'd need considerable time to turn his tools into skills. Given his draft status, you wouldn't want to grade him too low, but something like C+ "with higher potential" would be appropriate.
The Blue Jays promoted him to St. Catherine's in the New York-Penn League in 1993. He added 46 points to his batting average, hitting .279/.351/.372 with 25 steals in 75 games. His power was improving, and he controlled the strike zone well. Grade B- or B would be a decent grade.
Injuries limited Stewart to just 56 games in 1994, but he was awesome in those 56 games, hitting .324/.386/.467 with 15 steals and 23 walks in 225 at-bats. His power was increasing to go with his speed and already present plate discipline. Grade B would be appropriate, pending better health in '95.
That health came as Stewart played 138 games for Double-A Knoxville and 12 games for the Blue Jays. He hit .287/.398/.390 with 42 steals and 89 walks in Double-A, earning a Grade A- in my 1996 book. I wrote that he could turn into another Ricky Henderson if he continued to push his on-base skills.
Stewart didn't turn out quite that good, of course, but he's been a fine player. He hit .298/.377/.440 with 35 steals in Triple-A in 1996. I lowered his grade to B+ entering '97, although I still liked him an awful lot. He split '97 between Syracuse and Toronto, not earning a full time job with the Jays until '98. He eventually lost most of his speed, and injuries have been a problem, but at his peak
Stewart's minor league career was marked by a strong BB/K/AB ratio, speed production, and steady power improvement. This is an example of a tools player made good.