I have to admit to not being a big fan of Colorado Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart, statistically, that is, because I like to protect my team's batting average, and owning someone like Stewart tends to make that difficult. Stewart is an enticing slugger, and I don't think we've seen his best, but now that the Rockies have brought him back from Triple-A Colorado Springs and likely will let him swim or sink on a regular basis, he's an interesting fantasy topic. Plus, as a 16th-round pick in ESPN average live drafts, apparently plenty of people were fans.
Stewart doubled in a run in four at-bats Wednesday, and raised his batting average from .074 to .097 in the process. It obviously will keep going up, but even if it settles somewhere around his career mark of .245, it's not like he's going to be Andre Ethier out there, hitting .400 for any length of time, or showing consistency. Stewart belongs to that ever-expanding crew of all-or-nothing hitters who certainly bring slugging potential, but at a considerable price (Chris Davis, Russell Branyan, etc.). For Adam Dunn, when I know there are 40 or so home runs at the end of the ride, I think it's worth it. Stewart isn't Dunn. Of course, big league managers don't care so much about their team's batting average, they just want to score runs.
The Rockies will play Stewart regularly, and fantasy owners should watch, because he is a high-upside player. What would it take for me to be interested? Certainly a .245 batting average doesn't do it, but .270 with 25 home runs and with third base eligibility does. I'm willing to go another year or two to see if Stewart can make better contact, cut down on the strikeouts, continue to improve against left-handed pitching, hit away from Coors Field and avoid injury. Stewart did make strides in 2010 in a few areas, notably with the strikeouts and hitting on the road, and fantasy owners are intrigued by someone nearing their age-27 power prime with a 25-home run season to their credit, and little competition. I know, I know, the Rockies have Ty Wigginton, but he wouldn't be a threat if Stewart would hit for consistent power and keep his average in the .260 range. Plus, Wiggy is currently on the DL.
As of now, Stewart is owned in 27.2 percent of ESPN standard (10-team) mixed leagues, which seems a bit low based on how popular he was on draft day. I'd be that number jumps by the end of the weekend if Stewart hits a home run or two in the next few days. He was selected 13th at third base on average in ESPN live drafts, and he's only available now because of his demotion to the minors (and, well, that sub-.100 batting average). Things will get better, but it'd be nice to see consistent months, not the large ups and downs; last April, Stewart hit .293 with four home runs and a nice walk-strikeout rate (for him). In June, he hit .167 and fanned 40 percent of the time. Then in July he hit .278 with 10 extra base hits. He's got it in him to produce numbers we need.
Who are the other Stewart types that tend to be all or nothing? Let's check up on a few of them.
Chris Davis, 1B, Texas Rangers: We know he can hit minor league pitching, and the power is probably greater than what Stewart can do. Then again, so are the strikeouts. Davis homered Wednesday ... and fanned twice. It's nice the Rangers are moving Mitch Moreland to right field on occasion to fit Davis in, but he's probably just real-life trade bait. I wouldn't invest, and when he is dealt, he won't play home games in Arlington.
Russell Branyan, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks: His main competition is Juan Miranda, and the former New York Yankees prospect homered Wednesday. It's odd that two lefties are essentially sharing the at-bats against right-handers (Xavier Nady starts against lefties) for manager Kirk Gibson; Miranda is much younger, takes walks, can defend and has upside. If choosing in NL-only leagues, Miranda is the obvious choice to invest in.
Jack Cust, DH, Seattle Mariners: If he's not hitting home runs, I'm not sure why anyone would care. So far, he hasn't hit a home run. He's walking, which the Mariners need, but they're starved for power. Leave Cust alone.
Mark Reynolds, 3B, Baltimore Orioles: Still think a 44-homer, 24-steal and .260-hitting season is possible? Reynolds looks worse than last season's sub-.200 hitting version, and he hasn't attempted a stolen base. You don't want him, even in deep leagues.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Chicago Cubs: Well, he has hit a few home runs this week, but one would think Tyler Colvin will start seeing more action at first base in the next month if the .169 batting average continues.