Kohl Stewart estimated that 75 to 100 friends and family members were packed into his family’s home in Tomball, Texas, on Thursday night to see where he would be selected in the Major League Baseball draft.
Thank heavens for the smartphone age.
“The weather got real bad here and the satellite went out,” Stewart said in a teleconference. “Some people called the draft up on their phones, and when we heard my name, we all cheered.”
Stewart, a righthanded pitcher who also was a star quarterback at St. Pius X High School in Houston, had a good hunch where he was going. The Twins have been to all his games over the past two years, so he had a strong feeling that they would select him with the fourth overall pick.
The confirmation came around 6:20 p.m. The Twins believe he has the tools to become a front-line starter.
“I definitely believed that this is where I was headed,” he said.
The Twins also went for pitching with their second-round pick, selecting LSU righthander Ryan Eades.
Stanford righthander Mark Appel went with the first overall pick to his hometown team, the Houston Astros. The Chicago Cubs then selected University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant, and the Colorado Rockies took University of Oklahoma righthander Jonathan Gray, making the Twins’ selection a simple one.
“He was the best prospect on the board,” Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said. “He just happened to be a high school righthander.”
Stewart, 18, made eight starts for St. Pius X this season, going 5-1 with a 0.18 ERA. In 40 innings, he struck out 59 and walked 16. In 2012, he was 8-0 with 72 strikeouts in 54 innings.
“I think his ceiling is unlimited,” Johnson said. “I think he’s got the makeup and physical attributes to be a front-line starter.
“I’m not going to say he’s a No. 1 starter. I don’t think that anyone can predict that, but I do think that — not to put any undue pressure on the kid — but he has the ability, the athleticism to be just as good as the guys who were picked ahead of him.”
There were reports earlier on Thursday that talks had bogged down, but the Twins made the selection confident that they can agree on a signing bonus. Major League Baseball’s assigned value to the fourth overall pick is $4,544,400. Stewart can be signed for above or below that number. The Twins have a bonus pool of $8,264,400 to sign their picks or risk paying a penalty.
Stewart, listed at 6 feet 3 inches and 208 pounds, has a fastball that’s been clocked at 92-94 miles per hour, and he’s thrown his slider as hard as 89 mph. He just started throwing a curveball last winter but has had success with it. And he has a good changeup.
What’s intriguing about him is how much better he can get. He has a scholarship to play baseball and football at Texas A&M, where another QB, Johnny Manziel, is king. Being in a football-crazed state, Stewart spent plenty of time honing his football skills, and he feels that made his arm strong for baseball.
Now he will be immersed in baseball, and the Twins are excited about his potential.
“I look forward to being able to sit down and focus on baseball,” he said. “I look forward to being able to focus on one thing.”
But first, Stewart has to call Aggies football coach Kevin Sumlin and tell him he’s not coming.
“I don’t want to say anything and pull anybody in the wrong way,” Stewart said, “but I look forward to being a Minnesota Twin.’’
Eades is 8-1 with a 2.81 ERA this season for LSU. His fastball ranges from 90-95 mph, and he also has a hard breaking ball.
Baseball America had him listed as the 37th-best prospect in the draft.