With the MLB Draft less than a week away, I thought I’d look back on one of the few first-round picks the Braves have failed to sign in recent memory — prep pitcher Carter Stewart of Melbourne, Florida. Stewart had some reported wrist issues when the Braves selected him eighth overall in the 2018 MLB Draft, which led to them offering him less money. With high school players, that’s typically a recipe for disaster.
Thankfully, with the compensation pick the Braves got for failing to sign Stewart, they picked up Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers in the next draft. But what happened to Stewart, an elite prep arm that Braves fans were very excited about?
Most of you know, Stewart took an unconventional route to Japan and began playing professional baseball overseas. However, he first went to a Junior College in Florida and pitched fairly well — he struck out 108 batters and had a 1.70 ERA over 13 starts. That made him eligible for the 2019 MLB Draft after not signing in the 2018 Draft, but Stewart still decided to go to Japan.
In 2019, Stewart inked a six-year, $7 million contract to play for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. In 2020, Stewart didn’t play that well, but he was still only 20 years old. He went 3-7 with a 4.16 ERA over 67 innings, and his 1.46 WHIP indicated that he needed more development. Still, pretty incredible to be pitching professionally at that age. Stewart has been pretty good in 2021 thus far, going 5-0 with a 2.23 ERA over 44.1 innings.
Obviously, at the time, not signing Stewart to a deal stung. However, the Braves ended up with Shea Langeliers, who I believe has nothing else to prove in Mississippi. As far as I know, Stewart’s wrist hasn’t been a problem for him, but I’m pleased with how things worked out in Atlanta.
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