When the Reds drafted third baseman Sal Stewart 32nd overall last year from Miami’s Westminster Christian School, the club took one of the more advanced prep hitters in the country.
With the late-July draft date, Stewart appeared in just eight Arizona Complex League games and didn’t get much of an opportunity to show off.
This year he got out to a tough start with Low-A Daytona. While the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Stewart was showing a good understanding of the strike zone in the first two months of the year—he walked more than he struck out—he was hitting .216 and slugging .266 through the end of May.
The 19-year-old was hitting ground balls 61% of the time he made contact during that stretch. Of the few hits he did have on those ground balls, not one of them was an extra-base hit.
“There were a lot of ground balls, so we went back to do a deeper dive as to why that might be occurring,” Reds vice president of player development Shawn Pender said.
A change in his swing has helped turn everything around for the righthanded-hitting Stewart.
“To his credit, he made the necessary adjustment,” Pender said. “Ever since he’s getting to the ball a little earlier, catching it out in front a little better, and not being on such a downward plane.”
Since the start of June, Stewart had lowered his groundball rate to 41% and his hitting stats improved across the board. Not only had he hit the ball in the air more, but he had hit for a higher average and a higher slugging percentage on all batted-ball types compared to the first two months.
In the 46 games since June 1, Stewart hit .319/.421/.566 with nine home runs, 29 walks and 32 strikeouts.
Stewart’s swing alterations were paying off in a big way.