Outfielder DJ Stewart made his long-awaited debut for the Baltimore Orioles Sept. 12.
Now, the onus is on the former first-round pick to show he can be an everyday major-league player.
"You're going to like the way he plays, you're going to like the way he competes," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Sometimes that can be rewarded, too. He's got a good eye at the plate, got some pop. It's the biggest jump, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't hold his own here. He's a talented kid. I really like the way he approaches things from an effort standpoint and his alertness."
Stewart was the 25th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft out of Florida State and methodically made his way through the Orioles' minor-league affiliates. He had his best season in 2017 for Double-A Bowie, hitting .278/.378/.481 with 21 home runs and 79 RBIs.
If he can find that form for the Orioles, he could be a fixture in the lineup. This season, however, has been challenging for the 24-year-old.
Stewart battled some injuries and had an uneven performance for Triple-A Norfolk. He got off to a solid start, batting .271 before going on the disabled list with a hamstring injury May 26.
When he returned several week later, he never quite got into the same rhythm and hit .235 with 24 doubles, two triples, 12 homers, 11 steals and 55 RBIs during 116 games for the year.
"For me, it was a tale of two seasons," Stewart said. "Started off relatively hot and kind of carried that into from last year in Bowie. To me, I think, this is not making excuses at all, but after I got injured a little bit and now that I had that week [after the minor league season] to think about it, I feel like when I got back, I was kind of trying to get back to where I was hitting before I got hurt instead of just playing."
Stewart played left and right field and went 0-for-3 during his Orioles debut. He must show he can be a viable contributor in an outfield that currently has eight players on the 40-man roster.
For now, Stewart is trying not to put too much pressure on himself because he tends to struggle under those conditions
"Early in the season, I was just playing the game, having fun and getting hits," said Stewart, who batted .212 in the second half of the year for the Tides. "When I got back it was like, 'Alright, you have to get back to where you were.' Kind of put too much pressure on myself, just trying to do too much. Trying to get three hits in one at-bat when no one can do that.
"To me, it was more of a mental thing that kind of I let snowball on me a little bit. But to have that week off, this is like a new start. See what can happen."
The Orioles will be closely watching.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles