MINNEAPOLIS — For the second straight year, the Twins went with a high school player with their first pick in the First-Year Player Draft.
After taking outfielder Byron Buxton as the No. 2 pick in last year’s Draft, the Twins selected right-hander pitcher Kohl Stewart from St. Pius X High School in Houston as the No. 4 overall pick on Thursday night.
Stewart, who turns 19 on Oct. 7, was regarded as the best prep pitcher in the Draft and is a two-sport athlete, as he is currently committed to Texas A&M to play quarterback and play baseball. He was selected after the Astros picked Stanford right-hander Mark Appel at No. 1, the Cubs took University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant at No. 2 and the Rockies drafted Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray at No. 3.
“I think the ceiling is unlimited,” Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said. “I think he’s got the makeup and the physical attributes to be a frontline starter. I’m not going to sit here and say the guy is going to be a No. 1 starter — I don’t think anyone can predict that — but I do think that, not to put any undue pressure on the kid, but he has the ability, the athleticism to be just as good as the guys up ahead of him.”
Johnson also added that the Twins aren’t worried about signing him even though the Tomball, Texas, native is committed to Texas A&M. The No. 4 overall pick has a slot value of $4.544 million.
“He’s signing,” Johnson said. “He wants to be a Major League Baseball player.”
Stewart was surrounded by family members when he found out he was being picked by the Twins but said some weather issues kept him from watching it live on MLB Network.
“It was unbelievable,” Stewart said. “One of the craziest feelings I’ve ever felt. It’s a really exciting time for my family. I had a bunch of people in my house watching it. It was funny because the weather got pretty bad here in Houston so all of our satellite dishes went out, so we couldn’t even watch it on our tvs. We all had to put it up on our phones. So a few people had it on their phones and whenever my name was called the house kinda went crazy.”
On the diamond, the 6-foot-3 right-hander has a 95-mph fastball with a plus-slider and a changeup and curveball to go with it.
As a junior in 2012, Kohl went 8-0 and recorded 72 strikeouts over 54 innings pitched as he helped lead St. Pius to the TAPPS 5A Title. And as a senior, he went 5-1 with a 0.18 ERA in 40 innings pitched with 59 strikeouts and 16 walks to be named to the Texas All-Region First-Team in 2013.
He also played in both the Area Code Games and the Perfect Game All-American Classic over the summer, serving as the starting pitcher for the West in the Perfect Game. He was also named a First-Team Rawlings All-American.
“When we scouted him last summer he was probably 185 pounds, he put on about 20 pounds of muscle,” Johnson said. “He has arm strength. He has four distinct pitches: a fastball, slider, curve and change. And for a guy that is a dual sport athlete, he didn’t spend a ton of time on the mound last summer, but he has a very good working arm. His delivery is pretty good as well.”
Stewart sounded optimistic about signing with the Twins but wanted to talk with Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin first before making his decision final. The Aggies already have a big-time quarterback in Johnny Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman last year.
“Obviously the Twins, they pick me, they expect me to sign,” Stewart said. “I’m not going to say 100 percent for sure, but I’m looking forward to joining the Twins organization, but I’m definitely going to be in contact with Coach Sumlin here in the next couple hours or days or whatever it ends up being.”
Stewart is a Type 1 diabetic but Twins officials said leading up to the Draft that they weren’t worried about his medical condition, which is considered under control.
Day 2 of the Draft continues with Rounds 3-10, streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m. And Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. ET
MLB.com’s coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
The Twins have one more pick on the first night of the Draft with the No. 43 overall pick in the second round.