Once upon a time, Ian Stewart was one of the top prospects in baseball. He appeared on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list for five consecutive years between 2004 and 2008, being listed as high as fourth prior to the 2005 season. He certainly looked the type in the minors, showing a solid batting eye and projectable power. It seemed as though he could be a star in the making for the Colorado Rockies, a potential cornerstone third baseman.
Instead, Stewart flamed out. While he did hit for power, hitting as many as 25 home runs in 2009, he struggled at the plate, putting together a .232/.319/.417 batting line over his time in Colorado. His 2011 season was particularly rough, as he struggled to the tune of a .156/.243/.221 slash line. That performance resulted in being banished to Colorado Springs. After the season, he was traded to the Cubs, where he spent all of 2012. Stewart was then sent to AAA for the 2013 season, and was later suspended, and released, for violating a loyalty clause. Picked up by the Dodgers, Stewart did not play a single major league game in 2013.
Now, Ian Stewart finds himself in the Angels, having signed a minor league contract back on January 22nd. At this point, Stewart would likely appear to be a camp body, someone that the Angels are taking a look at in the hopes that he could tap into his talent, but would likely be ticketed for minors otherwise.
Yet, there is something that makes Stewart a bit more interesting. Over the past two winters, Stewart has been working out with former Angels great Rod Carew, getting hitting tips and learning to track pitches better. While Carew is not necessarily tinkering with Stewart’s swing, he is working on getting his mental approach together.
“For me, it was more about the mental side, how to track the ball better and recognize pitches better and how to hit pitches on certain areas of the plate. He never changed my stance and tried to work with what I already have,” Stewart said.
Will this be enough to help Ian Stewart possibly become the player that the Rockies had hoped he would develop into? Even if it is not, getting help from Carew is certainly a step in the right direction. Stewart has realized that he needs the help, and in order to make it back to the majors, needs to change his approach. Enlisting the aid of Carew, who had 3053 hits, a .393 on base percentage and only ten fewer walks than strikeouts over his career, is a great place to start.
Although the Angels are set at both second and third base with Howie Kendrick and David Freese, Ian Stewart may be able to earn a utility role with a solid Spring Training performance. If so, it may be due to the teachings of Rod Carew.