Another kid the Mets are taking a look at this fall is speedy center fielder Champ Stuart. Stuart spent his age-23 season split between High-A Port St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton. Stuart got bumped to the taxi squad in the Fall League to make room for the addition of outfielder Tim Tebow, but should still get enough at-bats to give the Mets a better idea of what they really have going into the winter. Stuart has a long, slender frame with a high waist and some fast-twitch actions and, wirey strength. He has a pretty compact, level stroke and has more power than you would think just by looking at him, though it comes with some brutal swing-and-miss numbers in 2016 (30% K rate in 315 PAs at High A and 36% K rate in 203 PAs at Double-A).
Based on a short look at Stuart in early fall league action, speed is going to be his carry tool, where he is 3.89-4.08 (3.69 on a bunt) HP-to-1B and maybe even better underway, where he can lengthen out his strides and really use his long legs. However, speed doesn’t do much when you can’t make contact. When he put the ball in play in 2016 he hit .351 across the two levels, but because of all the swing and miss, he only hit .265 at High A and .201 at Double-A. On top of that, for a guy that slugged .349, he put up a 0.80 ground-ball to fly ball rate, which further weakens his ability to create any kind of offensive impact.
Defensively, Stuart has the tools to be an above-average to plus defender at a premium position. He showed a good first step and was very comfortable when tested going straight back on a few balls during my AFL looks. He also has a 55-grade arm. So between his defensive abilities and 80-grade speed, it is conceivable to see Stuart in an OF-5 type role if he can get his strikeout rate down into even the low 20% range. Stuart was 40-for-46 in stolen bases this past season, so couple that with above-average defense in center field and a Peter Borjous (RF, Phillies) type impact is not that much of a stretch.
The Mets obviously recognize the potential value here, and having him around Mets first-base coach Tom Goodwin (Scottsdale Scorpions’ manager) is probably part of their plan. Going into 2017, Stuart will be old for his level at 24 but he only has 184 at-bats above High A. Expect him to start 2017 back at Double-A Binghamton, and if he can make the adjustment to cut down on the swing and miss, he is the type of player that could provide value at the big league level at some point next summer.