Will 2011 Finally Be Ian Stewart’s Breakout Campaign?

Fantasy owners have long waited for Ian Stewart to develop into one of the elite third basemen in the league.  We have heard all about his power potential ever since the 2003 first round pick hit 30 HR at Single-A  back in 2004.  However, in parts of four seasons with the Rockies, Stewart has yet to fully live up to the expectations.  His 2010 campaign was no different:

386 At Bats
.256 Batting Average (99 Hits)
18 Home Runs
61 RBI
54 Runs
5 Stolen Bases
.338 On Base Percentage
.443 Slugging Percentage
.308 Batting Average on Balls in Play

There are almost too many issues that we can point to for his lackluster performance.  First and foremost is his inability to consistently make contact.  Just look at his strikeout rate over his career:

  • 2007 – 39.5% (43 AB)
  • 2008 – 35.3% (266 AB)
  • 2009 – 32.5% (425 AB)
  • 2010 – 28.5% (386 AB)

Yes, it is trending downward, which is a positive sign, but could it have really gotten any higher?  Over his minor league career (2,297 AB) he posted a strikeout rate of 23.9%, so there is really no guarantee that he can improve it significantly from his ’10 level.  In the second half of ’10 he posted a 26.15% strikeout rate in 130 AB. 

Unfortunately, the type of strikeout rate he produces means he’s a .260ish hitter barring an extremely lucky season. 

To make matters worse, while he has struggled to hit for a good average overall, he has been particularly bad against left-handed pitchers the past two years:

  • 2009 – 101 AB, .178, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 15 R, 0 SB
  • 2010 – 91 AB, .231, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 12 R, 0 SB

Those types of struggles put him at risk to being a platoon player.  With the additions of Jose Lopez and Ty Wigginton this off season, the Rockies certainly have options to spell Stewart against southpaws.  That is just going to help cut into his playing time.

He also needs to find a way to keep himself on the field.  In 2010 an oblique injury cost him nearly all of September.  He’s never had more than 425 AB in a season.  It’s impossible to know exactly what he brings to the table over a full season, because we haven’t seen it yet.

Stewart has proven to have more than enough power to be a usable option.  With power should come RBI opportunities, as he figures to hit in the middle of the Rockies lineup behind Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki.  At 25-years old (he’ll turn 26 on April 5), he still has the potential to reach that ceiling we have heard so much about.

Is he a player that I would want to draft as my starting 3B?  Absolutely not, but as a depth option he is a tremendous high risk, high reward opportunity.  When you have the potential to hit 20+ home runs at a shallow position, you’re well worth the gamble.

What are your thoughts of Stewart?  How good do you think he could be?  Is he a player you are willing to target on draft day?

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Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections:


  1. GT says:

    You can’t say it so I will – Ian Stewart is a total pain in the ass to own. He goes on month long sabbaticals from baseball and is completely unreliable in weekly formats. This is coming from an NL-only owner!

  2. Guancous says:

    Wigginton is MVP caliber against lefties. I don’t see Stewart getting more than 450 ABs.

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