You never know what you will learn from a sit-down with a player. Andrew Stevenson (Potomac High-A) is just 21 years old, and he had a lot to say about defense, offense, baserunning, his alma mater LSU and his equipment sponsor Marucci Sports. Stevenson along with Blake Perkins were the Washington Nationals 2nd round picks last year as the Nats had no 1st round pick which they had to forfeit when they signed Max Scherzer as a free agent in the off-season last year.
The trip to prospect rich PNats territory is a sight/site to see, and that was after they just promoted Koda Glover on Friday to Harrisburg Double-A.
This segment is about Andrew Stevenson, however we will be writing additional segments as we also got to see Erick Fedde (Top Prospect #4), Osvaldo Abreu (Top Prospect #12), Drew Ward (Top Prospect #14), Spencer Kieboom (Top Prospect #21), Raudy Read (Top Prospect #27) Chris Bostick (Top Prospect #30) and Minor League Player of the Year Jose Marmolejos-Diaz and dozens of others.
Let’s begin this segment with the Nats with Andrew Stevenson as Part 2 of our installment:
Andrew Stevenson has an athletic 6 foot frame, and just has one of those friendly smiles like you have known him your whole life. As mentioned, he is just 21 years old although he is polished with his big-time experience playing for LSU in college, and the 4 levels he has already accomplished with the Nats as he got time in Auburn, GCL Nats, and Hagerstown Suns (Low-A) last year, and this year he started with a promotion to the PNats (High-A). Stevenson shouldn’t be there long as he is having an All-Star type year which generally signals promotion up another level.
When Stevenson entered last year’s draft, many scouts had him as the most advanced defensive outfielder in the draft, but had reservations about his bat. They liked his speed and the only concern was could he get on base enough. They knew his power wasn’t part of his game which made him a glove first player, but you still have to be able to hit well enough to earn a spot and keep it on a Major League roster.
As I was hanging out at the batting cage at Pfitzner Stadium, the large man with the clean shaven head next to me was the Nats Director of Player Development, Mark Scialabba, which gave me the opportunity to ask him about comparisons of Andrew Stevenson to Kevin Kiermaier. Scialabba said he had not heard that before but liked the comparison. Who wouldn’t. Kiermaier was the Gold Glove highlight reel centerfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays last year. Stevenson excels in the open field using his speed and reads on balls to snag balls in the air. Last week we connected an article of how he saved his LSU teammate Aaron Nola using his extraordinary defense.
There is plenty of Stevenson amazing catches that are fun to watch if you Google him. StatCast™ will have fun with him when he gets to the Majors. Also as you might have noticed, Stevenson is a natural lefty thrower and batter. In some nice sample sizes, he hits lefty pitchers better than righty pitchers and overall the mechanical adjustments he has made are transformative in making him one of the best hitters in the Carolina League. His slash this season so far is .341/.432/.476/.907 and like any good lead-off hitter, Stevenson is taking his walks and his steals.
Stevenson told us that he has faced so many lefty pitchers that steals have been more difficult to attempt so far. Well, Stevenson already has 10 steals in 20 games and is very humble talking about his accomplishments which include 13 walks so far. His speed turns gappers from doubles into triples, and he is showing 3 very strong tools in defense, speed, and hitting. If you are looking for a pure power hitter, those are the guys batting behind him. If you are looking for a game changer, Andrew Stevenson is your guy.
Of course, I couldn’t wait to ask Andrew Stevenson if he has ever heard comparisons to Kevin Kiermaier to which he answered, “No, first time, first time (gives me a big smile). I have been a defense first guy as what I bring to the table, but I’ve been trying to swing the bat as good as I can and having some success.” I reminded him he just had a 4-5 day, and that got another big smile. He said he is working on his bunting each and every day and has had some bunt hits and working on the drag bunt which is an advantage as a lefty, and he said he is working on the push bunts also. Overall the mechanical tweaks he has made to his swing is working, and now it’s getting reps and seeing and identifying pitches and putting a good swing on them.
Let’s talk some more defense,
“It’s a little bit tougher here [making plays against the outfield walls] because the walls aren’t padded, Stevenson said. “You really don’t want to go into those full speed, but sometimes you can’t help it. You have to know the warning track and how many steps you have. It’s all about field awareness and knowing where you are on the field.”
We got to talk about how he has gotten so good at defense, and he said it’s getting good reads and sprinting to a spot as he is “getting a feel for where that ball will land. Always easier to run forward you know. So if you are playing an extra step back, it’s not always going to hurt you, but if you are playing in, they can burn you for a double, triple, and extra bases and you want to avoid that.”
We got to see an actual demo of how Stevenson plays the wall which is getting to the spot where he can turn and get his head squared up towards homeplate with his glove hand pointed forward and left leg back so he can catch it and be in his strongest throwing position. It was a great demo that Stevenson took the time to show how he does it.
Stevenson is advanced in his own reads of players, and in the low Minors there is no defensive scouting reports except for seeing the stat sheets on who has power. Stevenson told us that he already has his own scouting report in his minds as they play these teams multiple times and he banks that information away otherwise he is just using instincts and trying to make his pitchers look good and save them some hits as he turns them into outs.
Stevenson came into the league with an equipment sponsor as Marucci Sports has hooked him up with the leather, and some prime lumber as he swings a modified CU7 bat. While most Minor Leaguers have to swing “no name” Pro Stock bats of inferior wood, Stevenson is swinging a bat we’ve seen Bryce Harper swing before.
Like we said, if you want to see Andrew Stevenson playing for the PNats, you better do it soon as he might be promoted to Harrisburg at any time.