Double-A Pensacola left-hander Will Stewart hit Biloxi’s David Fry with an up-and-in fastball Friday night, forcing in the game-tying run in an eventual Blue Wahoos loss. It was a critical moment in the game, of course, but perhaps nobody in the world outside of my nerdy self immediately recognized the historical significance.
That was Stewart’s 24th hit by pitch of 2021, setting an all-time single-season record for affiliated Marlins minor league pitchers.
Watch it for yourself:
(On a related note, I highly recommend subscribing to MiLB.TV if you don’t already)
Stewart broke a tie with right-handers Pat Leahy and Jheyson Manzueta, who allowed 23 HBP apiece in 1993 and 2011, respectively.
Stewart reached this mark with nearly one full month remaining in the MiLB regular season, a testament to his consistency. Only once has he had back-to-back starts without plunking somebody. Although he’s had occasional control issues in the past, his current hit by pitch rate (6.1% of all batters faced) is more than tripled his 2015-2019 rate (1.9%).
We can poke fun at Stewart’s milestone partially due to the fact that he is a soft-tosser. The 24-year-old seldom tops 90 miles per hour with his fastball, and the majority of his hit by pitches have come off his secondary stuff, anyway. The likelihood of a batter suffering an injury against him is very low.
Stewart has overcome these extra baserunners to stick in Pensacola’s rotation all season long. He owns a 4.43 ERA—the Double-A South league average is 4.28—and enters Saturday with the second-most innings pitched among Marlins minor leaguers (89.1). The Alabama native is unranked on my Marlins Top 30 prospects list (and not particularly close to cracking the Top 30, to be honest).
The Marlins acquired Stewart from the Phillies in early 2019 as part of the J.T. Realmuto blockbuster. With Sixto Sánchez sidelined due to shoulder surgery and Jorge Alfaro struggling to justify his spot on the roster, Stewart is, improbably, having the best year of anybody on the Marlins’ side of that package.
Where will Will Stewart spend the majority of his 2022 season?
This poll is closed
Repeating Double-A Pensacola