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Kohl Stewart shows top-10 stuff

3/15/2013

HOUSTON -- Kohl Stewart made his first start of the season for St. Pius X on March 8, after missing a month recovering from a strained shoulder he suffered in the last football game of the season in December. On a 40-pitch limit, Stewart was 90-94 in that outing and looked healthy but not as electric as he'd been previously. This past Thursday night, however, he was plugged in.

Stewart, whom I ranked as the top prep righty in the class, worked four innings without coming close to his 55-pitch limit, but managed to show four pitches while toying with hitters from opponent Houston Christian.

He hit 96 mph and sat 92-94 consistently, showing a plus slider at 85-88, a hard curveball at 79-82, and even a few changeups at 83-84 with decent arm speed. He drives the fastball down in the zone, with hard-boring life in on right-handers The slider is the knockout pitch right now, breaking very hard and late down and away from right-handed batters. Stewart had a little more command of the curveball, a downer with tight rotation that he threw on the inner half to right-handers. His arm speed on the handful of changeups he threw was good, without a ton of action on the pitch.

Stewart's delivery isn't ideal, as his hips are pretty stiff and his pitching arm doesn't pronate until fairly late, while he drifts forward off the rubber rather than taking a strong stride towards the plate. None of these things is a huge red flag for injuries, and it's possible that a pro coach cleans him up a little and unleashes even more fury out of that arm. Stewart has a scholarship to play quarterback at Texas A&M, so he will have some leverage come draft time.

I don't know what Stewart's personal preferences are, but if he stays healthy all spring, he's a top-10 talent in this draft class and should get at least $2 million to forget about throwing the handegg around for the Aggies.

• New Mexico infielder D.J. Peterson (No. 43 on my top 50) played one game at Arizona State this week in front of a lot of front-office execs from Cactus League clubs, going 1-for-5 in the Lobos' 11-inning loss to the Sun Devils.

Peterson played third base and deserves credit for his effort there, but he's a first baseman in pro ball. His swing is pretty simple and direct, but the way he glides over his front side means he doesn't have much leverage to drive the ball, and his load is pretty small -- a long way of saying I think his swing is geared for contact, but not more than, say, above-average power. Peterson might go in the late first round, but I've ranked him below that level because of his position and the lack of a plus tool. His younger brother, Dustin, is also a prospect, an infielder committed to Arizona State.

• One ASU player stood out Wednesday, although he can't be drafted until 2015 -- freshman Ryan Burr, who was sitting at about 94 mph in relief with a hard curveball that has been missing a lot of bats lately. Burr has thrown 12 innings so far, facing 47 batters, and has struck out 17 while allowing only three hits and four walks.

His arm action, very rough in high school, is only a little cleaner today, so he may end up a power bullpen arm, but with him, freshmen Brett Lilek and Ryan Kellogg and sophomore Adam McCreery, the Sun Devils have an impressive collection of underclassmen on their staff.