Ernest Dove - New York Mets Prospect Watch: OF Champ Stuart


                                                   Champ at bat at Tradition Field

  Well, I wanted to follow up my LIVE FROM LUCIE post last week by starting a series of prospect watch postings to allow for singling out the prospects I've seen LIVE this year, some of whom I've seen over two years now (like Champ) and put effort into given them a little individualized attention and see what we have here :)

  First up is Jervis Harvin (Champ) Stuart, the resident speedy Gonzalez currently in the Mets farm system right now.  Champ will play out the entire year as a 23 year old.  He is a 2013 6th round pick of the Mets, a college guy, from the Bahamas. I assume we all know two things at this point, Champ can run, and we have concerns for Champ hitting.

  I've now seen Champ over two different years, both at the High A level with the St. Lucie Mets.  In 2015 I definitely saw the speed, but had serious concerns about the hitting tool.  My biggest concern was not only the strikeout rate, but simply being able to hit what the Tradition Field gun had at 89-91 MPH fastballs.

  Now in his 4th season of professional baseball, spanning 241 games, Champ is hitting a career .220 with an OBP hovering around the .320 mark.  Due to the low average, the speedy Champ only has 69 career stolen bases. 

  In 2016 my ray sunshine for Champ has been his ability, only through my one game eyeball test, to make contact on the ball this year.  Regarding his actual stats this year, it's also important to note that his BB/K ratio seems to be at its best as a professional, currently with 12 BBs against 25 Ks this year.  last year, Champ had 40 BBs and a whopping 141 Ks, so there is improvement here.  Of course, I have to always remain objective and not get too excited.  Champ is a college guy.  He's 23 years old.  This is his SECOND year at the level, and as my buddy Scot pointed out, we really need Champ to dominate this level this year.  Maybe not quite like Jeff Mcneil (yup, I heart Jeff) who destroyed the level in his second year with one of the highest batting averages, but there HAS to be marked improvement.  And from my eyes, there has been.

  Also of note: my eyeball test tells me that Champ plays a very solid CF, covering the area extremely well, using his speed and eyes to make good jumps on the ball in the air, and it's my personal opinion that he does have a pretty strong arm, especially considering his slight build.  In my second year seeing him, I really don't see any kind of weight gain or building of muscle.

  So, as always, the concern is the old school stat of the batting average.  It's nice to see the K and BB rates look improved, and a .337 OBP is good starting point for a centerfielder, but I'm wondering what the outlook and projects can truly be for him at this time.  Again, we're talking about the guy who is probably the fastest in the entire farm system (I've heard good things about youngster Lindsay but have never seen em play).

  I guess maybe I can pretend to play the game of comps, and maybe try to project him out as an E.Y. Jr. type.  Both guys are looking at 'later in life' arrival at the major league level.  I believe Champ's arm could play in the corners in a pinch as a 5th OFer type, like what de Aza is currently doing for the Mets.  But then also the question is Champ and his power. E.Y. Jr and de Aza have shown some power at the major league level.  Champ has 10 homers in his minor league career. 

 NOT to compare, but the Reds Billy Hamilton is still now a career .240 hitter in the MLB, with an OBP under .300. Billy also though is a gold glove CFer, with a solid approach to his infield hits/bunts.  I've actually seen Jeff McNeil bunt more for hits in Lucie than Champ at this point. Champ has technically shown more power at the minor league level than Billy did, but Billy was a career .280 minor league hitter. 

  All in all, the jury is out on Champ.  a yearly track of improvement would still put him in the majors by age 26, which is not old, and considering his glaring one tool, it's still good to have him at that age.  In fact, I'm one of the crazy guys who thought out loud last year about wishing he could have been put onto the roster in September, but I'm sure that Mets just didn't want to risk losing the guys at the time on the 40 man, and also take into account the strategies for guys based on when they are 'forced' to be put onto it to avoid rule 5 status.  I don't believe Champ would have any chance of making it onto the 40 man by September this year either.  There's simply too many arms on it right now that the team values, along with hitters they don't want to give up on like Nimmo and Matt Reynolds.  But trades always happen.  And if the Mets unload prospects again to include any 40 man guys, I guess anything is possible.  But either way, if Champ doesn't start consistently hitting for average, it will be a tough decision for Mets to make in regards to actually keeping him for a third year back in the High A level.

  Either way, you simply cant teach speed like he has.  I look forward to seeing him play again in the coming month or two ahead. I'm really hoping his BA is at least above .260 when I do.



Tom Brennan said...

Champ doing better than in 2016, but he can't use his speed if he strikes out. So far, he has improved his rate a lot - about a K every 2.6 plate appearances last year, up to 1 every 3.7 PAs this year. Without power, he'd really have to still drastically improve that rate to ever make the bigs. As such, I think there is almost no chance another team would claim him off the 40 man.

His goal for the rest of the season in St Lucie ought to be .270 and a K every 5 PAs. And hopefully to continue to improve from there.

Tom Brennan said...

Champ ought to get his hands on any and all Matty Alou tapes that he can. There was a guy with speed but no power who absolutely maximized his positives and minimized his negatives. He was an expert at bunting, making contact, and beating out grounders.

Astoundingly, in 1970, with pitchers like Gibson, Ryan, Weaver, and Koosman around, Matty struck out only 18 times in 718 plate appearances!! Once every 40 times up! Champ is faster. Worth a try.

Mack's Mets © 2012