Baltimore Orioles: Outfielder DJ Stewart Can’t Catch A Break
By Nick Stevens
Baltimore Orioles outfielder DJ Stewart cannot catch a break in 2019.
Despite numerous outlets making light of DJ Stewart losing his footing and the baseball on a flyball in Tuesday night’s game which resulted in a ball off Stewart’s head and a concussion, the 2019 season has been no laughing matter for the 25-year-old Baltimore Orioles outfielder.
After finding himself on the Injured List with an ankle injury, rehabbing his way back, being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, and finally returning to the major league roster, Stewart is back on the Injured List with a concussion. No timetable for his return has been set yet. With a severe head injury like a concussion, it could be a week or it could take Stewart longer to fully recover.
Stewart, like many Orioles prospects with promise, was sent to the minor leagues to begin the 2019 season to continue their development and “graduate” as general manager Mike Elias put it earlier this year. With a track record of showcasing his power, speed, and on-base ability since the Orioles drafted him in the first round of the 2015 draft out of Florida State, 2019 was supposed to be a big season for Stewart as he proved to new leadership that he belongs on this team in 2020 and beyond.
Per usual with Stewart, his season got off to a bit of a slow start. The same can be said for the entire Norfolk Tides lineup this year, but Stewart struggled to stay above the Mendoza-line through the first month of the season. While he hit just .202 with three home runs and three double, he did reach base at a .356 clip, showcasing his ability to draw a significant amount of walks (19 BB, 17 K in 24 games).
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Things turned around in May, as Stewart forced the hand of the Orioles in calling him up to the bigs. A .457 average, .518 OBP, 1.403 OPS, 18 extra-base hits in 20 games, and just as many walks (11) as strikeouts (11), bringing his total K/BB ratio to 28/30 through 54 games, was one of the top months of baseball anyone in the organization has put up all season. After watching him on a nightly basis, it became clear that Stewart had very little more to gain going up against International League pitching.
Unfortunately for Stewart, injuries have cut his time in the big leagues short, both times he earned himself a call-up. A pop up in no man’s land and collision with Hanser Alberto led to an ankle injury and his first IL stint back in June. His concussion occurred on the same day as his second call-up, again delaying any opportunity to build on his performance in the minors.
In eight games with the Orioles, Stewart is 4-25 (.160 average, all singles) with one walk, nine strikeouts, and one stolen base. As the Orioles cycle through outfielders this year and injuries creep in, it has to be frustrating for Stewart to sit back and watch instead of contributing on the field and making his case. Luckily, he’s still young, this roster is still very young, and players like Stewart will have another opportunity next season to impress the coaching staff.
Get well soon, DJ. Hope to see you back on the field shortly.