Christin Stewart, a Lawrenceville native and former standout at Providence Christian Academy and the University of Tennessee, was named the Detroit Tigers’ 2017 minor league player of the year Wednesday.
The outfielder has won the award consecutive seasons and ranks as the Tigers’ No. 4 prospect, according to Baseball America.
“I am blessed with the opportunity,” Stewart said in a statement. “I played with a great group of guys and performed to the best of my ability and had success. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and coaches that pushed me along the way.”
Stewart, 23, was Detroit’s first-round draft pick in 2015 and likely will make his major league debut next season. He won the honor by hitting .256 with 28 home runs and 86 RBIs in his first full season with the Double-A Erie SeaWolves.
“Each time you go up a little it gets a little tougher,” Stewart said on a conference call. “This year, I went there and started off pretty hot, stayed pretty consistent through the whole year. Try to play to the best of my ability.”
Playing in a career-high 136 games, Stewart led the Eastern League in homers and was third in RBIs. He tied for fourth with 29 doubles and placed fifth in slugging percentage (.501).
Despite that, he didn’t receive a call-up when rosters expanded in September.
“I just try to go out every day and perform,” Stewart said. “The rest will take care of itself. … It (the call-up) didn’t change the game plan. Go out and get better every day. My time will come.”
As the Tigers enter a rebuilding phase – signaled by midseason trades of Justin Verlander, Justin Upton and Justin Wilson – Stewart could be among their long-term offensive centerpieces. He projects as a middle-of-the-order power bat, slugging 58 homers across the last two seasons.
Stewart said seeing the Tigers clear out veterans does add extra motivation throughout the system.
“That automatically opens up space at the big league level,” Stewart said. “That played a large part in the progression for a lot of players in the organization.”
Though scouts have reservations about his defense, which will probably limit him to strictly a left fielder and designated hitter, Stewart’s ability to drive the ball, patience at the plate and balanced approach has been well-received by evaluators.
He hopes to join the Tigers in big league spring training next March.
“Two things you can control in baseball is attitude and effort,” Stewart said. “The rest can take care of itself. … All that plays a part into what the people in the higher ups see in a player when they think about moving him up.”
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