Stewart, Soto earn Tigers’ top minor-league honors

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Kansas City, Mo. — If it bothered Christin Stewart that the Tigers didn’t include him among the September call-ups earlier this month, he’s gotten over it.

“I just try to go out every day and perform,” said Stewart, who for the second straight year was named the Tigers’ minor-league player of the year. “I truly believe the rest will take care of itself. Everybody wants to be a September call-up. But when it didn’t happen, it didn’t change my game plan.

“I still went out every single day and just tried to get better. My time will come.”

The Tigers also named left-hander Gregory Soto their minor-league pitcher of the year.

Stewart, 23, spent the entire season at Double-A Erie, leading the Eastern League with 28 home runs. He ranked third in RBIs (86), fourth in doubles (29) and fifth in slugging percentage (.501). He hit .256 and struck out 138 times in 136 games.

Last season he put up very similar numbers between High-A Lakeland and Erie — 30 home runs with 87 RBIs and 131 strikeouts.

“Half the battle of playing professional sports is being consistent,” he said. “I go out every day and try to have a routine. I go about my business and I hope people notice that — having a routine will lead being more consistent.”

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The strikeouts are a concern, organizationally, as is his defense. He has made steady improvement as an outfielder, but his glove is still not considered big-league ready. That is part of the reason they opted not to call him up this month and start his big-league service time.

Most likely, he will be invited to big-league camp next spring and be ticketed for a season in Triple-A.

“I love a challenge,” he said. “Every time you move up it gets harder. I just have to focus on staying within myself and keep doing what I do best at the plate. … I just need to take care of my business and play to the best of my ability.

“The few things that you can control in this game of baseball are attitude and effort. The rest will take care of itself.”

Soto, 22, who the Tigers signed out of the Dominican Republic when he was 18, dominated at Low-A West Michigan. He went 10-1 in 18 starts, with a 2.25 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 96 innings.

Opponents hit just .204 against him.

In terms of his production, it was a giant leap forward.

“My fastball, I was able to control it more, as well as my slider,” Soto said through interpreter Bryan Almonte. “I didn’t have that control before. But now that I have the confidence to throw the fastball and slider for a strike, it’s helped me have the success I’ve had.”

Soto projects to begin next season where he finished this year — at High-A Lakeland. He went 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 28 innings at the end of the season.

“All of us in the Tigers player development system are proud to recognize Christin and Gregory for their outstanding 2017 seasons,” said David Littlefield, vice president of player development. “It’s a great accomplishment to stand out in what has become a formidable farm system, and they did just that.

“Tigers fans have every reason to be excited for these players’ bright futures.”