It's Oprah Winfrey's giveaway week: the Los Angeles Dodgers edition.
"You get a start. You get a start. Everyone gets a start!"
The revolving door that has become the Dodgers' fifth starter spot takes another rotation on Wednesday when rookie right-hander Brock Stewart makes his Major League Debut against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
Stewart's meteoric rise through the minors to the majors is the stuff of legends. On Wednesday, he will make start for his fourth team this season, and it's still June. For many, that labels you as a journeyman, but for Stewart, he's a meteor.
Stewart's humble beginnings start in Class-A Rancho Cucamonga where he began the year with the Quakes. The 24-year-old allowed just one run with 10 strikeouts in 11 innings over the span of two starts in Rancho before he was promoted to Double-A Tulsa.
The relatively unknown pitching prospect was so obscure, that he didn't even crack the list of MLB.com's "Top-30 Dodgers prospects." For a pitcher that was not even considered a top 30 prospect within an organization to make his MLB debut less than three months later is simply astonishing.
"I was a little bit surprised," Stewart told SportsNetLA of how far he's come singe Class-A to start the season. "It's been a whirlwind. I'm confident in my abilities and think I should be here."
To put that in perspective, Grant Holmes, the No. 3 prospect on that list, began the season in Class-A with Stewart and is still with the Quakes as of the publication of this piece.
Stewart's next rung up the Dodgers organizational ladder was a stop at Double-A Tulsa where he dominated the Texas League pitching for the then first place Drillers.
The 6 foot 3 inch fly ball pitcher had a 1.12 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 56.1 innings over the course of nine starts at the Double-A level. His dominance earned him a Texas League All-Star selection, but he was unable to play in the game which took place on Tuesday, due to his promotion to Triple-A and as of Wednesday, the big leagues.
"It's a meteoric rise," Matt Herges, his pitching coach at Triple-A Oklahoma City said. "It's really rare. The last time I saw that was Paco Rodriguez. He went to Florida. He was in the big leagues that year he got drafted but he was a pitcher his whole life. Brock was a position player so the fact that he has this command, moxie and he's so new to this is impressive."
Stewart made three starts with OKC, allowing three runs in nearly six innings in his Pacific Coast League debut. He struck out seven in the Dodgers 9-3 victory over the Omaha Storm Chasers.
"I haven't seen anyone that confident in his fastball in a long time," Herges added. "He threw it without worry. He threw it like, "I'm gonna shove this up your gut." His changeup was plus. His fastball command was plus. The slider was just okay, it was 50-50, but everything about it was better than that I expected and I had a lot of good reviews when he came over here."
Stewart was drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 draft out of Illinois State where he played third base for the Redbirds. He was discovered by Dodgers' director of amateur scouting, Billy Gasparino, who then with the Padres told Jeff Stewart (Brock's father) that he was interested in his son as a pitcher.
Herges, attended Illinois State, and Jeff Stewart was his college coach. The senior Stewart is now a scout with the Tampa Bay Rays organization and with his wife, Amy, they were able to see Brock's first Triple-A start in person. After the game, they met up with Herges at a Sonic restaurant across the street. On Wednesday, Jeff and Amy will be in Milwaukee to see their son fulfill his lifelong dream of pitching in the big leagues.
Stewart's transformation from infielder to pitcher is unusual, but it isn't unprecedented. The Dodgers have three relievers in Kenley Jansen, Chris Hatcher and Pedro Baez that were converted into pitchers, and the most famous example was University of Arizona shortstop Trevor Hoffman who was converted into a closer and went on to notch 600 career saves for the San Diego Padres. Herges sees a lot of comparisons between the two.
“This is the same type of fastball,” Herges said. “It’s a high spin rate, located four seam gas. It’s beautiful to watch. He’s got a real sinker too.”
Stewart is primarily a fly ball pitcher, and was bitten by the home run bug in his three starts at Triple-A before he was called up on Wednesday. Miller Park is a hitter's park and with bats like Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter, the 24-year-old could get beat by the long ball early.
Stewart will be the ninth different starting pitcher used by the Dodgers in 2016 and the fourth to make their Major League Debut following in the footsteps of Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling and Julio Urias. He will wear No. 51 on the mound on Wednesday.
I'm so incredibly fortunate to say that the dreams I've had since I was a young boy have come true. I got the call!! — Brock Stewart (@B_Rock_one5) June 27, 2016