News and observations from the Gulf Coast League:
Orlando, Florida – Christin Stewart, the Detroit Tigers 1st round pick (33rd overall) from the University of Tennessee in this year’s June MLB Draft, discussed his first week in professional baseball before a game against the GCL Braves. His enthusiasm was obvious, as players crowded in to ESPN World Wide of Sports, where the GCL Braves play their home games. The schedule is short, with minimal travel, and the outfielder looked forward to playing in Florida, where he’s come to play every summer since high school.
Here’s what he had to say:
"It’s been awesome. This has been a great experience. Every day I’m getting used to the speed of things in professional games. It’s different. The first few days were rough, but playing every day will get easier. I’m just loving what I do."
"Physically, I’m feeling pretty good. It’s more of a mental grind than physical. That’s the biggest thing."
"A lot of emotions running through me the night of the draft. Being able to get drafted by them was a blessing. I love the coaches I’m working with. [NOTE: Stewart has played both corner outfield positions since college, and said he’s equally comfortable in either place]
Tigers @ Braves report:
Tigers 1st round pick (22nd overall) Beau Burrows made his first professional start, and he started off on the right foot. He threw two quick strikes to the first batter he faced, and continued the inning being economical while allowing the infield to work for him. There’s something striking about a player that young trusting the guys behind him, and he came out of the gate confident in pitching to contact.
Braves prospect Lucas Sims struggled with command, starting the 1st inning with a HBP and issued a BB. Cameron Gibson, son of Kirk, hit one hard and tripled to give the Tigers a very early 3-0 lead. When Sims got guys out it was with a heavy sinking fastball. His location was inconsistent, as he tried to mix in breaking balls. One pitch comically soared over another player’s head. But his velocity was good and he was effective at times.
15th rounder Bradley Keller showed an ability to lay off pitches he couldn’t handle and exhibited good pitch recognition. Burrows struggled a bit more that inning, unable to keep the ball down as consistently. There’s a lot of good movement on his fastball, making it hard to pick up. He allowed the Tigers to cut the Braves lead in half, but never appeared rattled while he worked through trouble.
Justin Ellison has impressive wheels and legged out a double. But there was an appeal after someone noticed he hadn’t touched first. The hit was erased. He later led off the 7th with a single. He has a good approach, aggressive, but not too much that he’s free-swinging. Good contact guy taken in the 12th round out of Western Oklahoma State.
Jaret Hellinger was a standout amid all the pitchers that got the ball that day. The Braves 20th round pick out of Ola High School is athletic and quick, with a good move to first. When he struggled, he kept his composure. He seemed to feed off the challenges in the inning, and with guys on, he remained focused and threw strikes.
Christin Stewart showcased solid patience at the plate, good bat speed and excellent speed on the bases. He singled and later scored a run.
A quick note: Atlanta’s 2nd rounder, catcher Lucas Herbert left the game after being injured in his only at-bat. It appeared to be a problem with his ankle, but not due to contact. But that was unclear. He left the field limping and hasn’t played since. No further information was given.
"We’ve got three extra catchers and one extra position player. Some guys are hurt. Leonardo Garcia is pitching today...I think that’s how you say his name. I’ve gotta put faces to names here." GCL Yankees manager Marc Bombard summing up the GCL.