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Twins to call up 2013 first round pick Kohl Stewart

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This is surprising.

Chicago White Sox v Minnesota Twins
Kohl Stewart is supposedly in this picture.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Forgive the pun, but this came straight out of left field. Apparently the Twins have plans on promoting 2013 first round pick Kohl Stewart to the major leagues for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Tigers, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press.

The Twins needed a starting pitcher on Sunday after Adalberto Mejia was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a sore wrist. In the short term, the team recalled reliever Tyler Duffey, but it appears that another roster move will be made after Saturday’s game to accommodate the addition of Stewart, which very likely could be demoting Duffey back to Triple-A.

Drafted fourth overall in 2013 out of high school, the expectation was for Stewart to become a rotation fixture. Despite posting solid ERAs as he slowly worked his way up the minor league ladder, Stewart struggled with striking hitters out and his control started to disappear in 2016 and 2017. He began the 2018 season at Double-A and discovered his strikeout pitch, thus earning a promotion to Triple-A Rochester where he posted a 3.98 ERA, though it came with a .287 batting average allowed and whiffing less than 18% of the batters he faced. However, his control has been much better and he has a groundball rate above 57% this season, which would rank #1 in the major leagues among starting pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched (Clayton Richard of San Diego is currently atop the leaderboard at 56.4%).

Stewart was due to become a minor league free agent at the end of the year so this is likely the Twins front office wanting to take a look at him against major league foes before making a decision on him this offseason. In choosing him, the organization bypassed other young pitchers such as Fernando Romero and Zack Littell, while Stephen Gonsalves had pitched on Thursday and thus was unavailable for a Sunday start. At least for Stewart, his debut will come against the Tigers, the worst offense in MLB according to wRC+ and wOBA.

Edit: La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune suggests that a position player will be sent down to make room for Stewart. Looking at the roster, Tyler Austin seems the most likely player to be demoted. Neal’s justification is that the Twins already have 12 pitchers on the active roster, but I still think demoting Duffey would make the most sense for the team.