At the very least, he has an outstanding name. Champ Stuart, the Mets’ sixth-round pick, is a native of the Bahamas, but he went to high school in Asheville, North Carolina, and attended college at nearby Brevard, a Division II school. Stuart is one of the very best athletes in this draft, a plus-plus runner with a short-but-strong build and a good arm. Unfortunately, he just has no idea how to translate his natural gifts to the game yet.
The first thing you notice about Stuart is that speed. He runs a sub-6.2 60-yard dash, a mark that is easily plus-plus, and once he signs he’ll instantly be the fastest player in the Mets system. The speed really can be game-changing, if he learns how to use it. He plays center for Brevard, and he certainly has the arm for the position, but he takes poor reads on fly balls, which prevents him from being a good defender right now. Hopefully he’ll learn to take better routes with more experience, but it’s important to remember that some guys never do.
He’s similarly problematic at the plate. He’s got some strength to him and impressive bat speed, suggesting that he might be able to provide average power despite a 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame. Unfortunately, he has very poor pitch recognition and plate discipline, resulting in a strikeout rate of almost 21%. Even bad breaking balls are enough to fool him, and trust me, he doesn’t see many good breaking balls in Division II. I haven’t see any video on Stuart, but word is his swing is overly simple with little lower body involvement. If a team wanted him to hit for what power his body can provide, they’d need to get him swinging more rotationally with a weight transfer. That would require a swing overhaul. He’d probably be best served by keeping the simpler swing and learning to put the ball on the ground, where he can use his speed to its full effect, but right now Stuart just frustrates his coaches by hitting balls in the air.
The upside is quite high here, but it’s important to remember that there’s a reason why Stuart is a sixth-round pick and not a first-round pick, and that reason is that Stuart just isn’t very good at baseball right now. And while he is quite young for a college junior, he still has less time to develop than a high school player. He’s a project.