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DJ’s In The House…For Now

Earlier this week, the Mets informed DJ Stewart that he was joining the Mets in Flushing for Opening Day but wasn’t officially being named the 26th man on the roster. That designation would have to wait until the Mets could review other teams’ players who either opted out or were designated for assignment after not making their respective teams. On Wednesday morning, Stewart found out that he will, indeed, be on the Mets Opening Day roster.

Now, if this sounds like a consolation prize, it’s probably because in a sense it is. Then again, since joining the Mets on a minor league contract last year, DJ Steward has shown he knows how to take advantage of his opportunities.

Stewart was originally drafted in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles. It took Stewart a little bit to adjust to professional baseball, and in 2017 he had 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases for the Orioles’ Double-A affiliate, the Bowie Baysox. He made his major league debut with Baltimore in 2018, showed a little pop, with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs in seventeen September games. Over the next few seasons, Stewart shuffled back and for the between the Orioles, and while his power was generally there, he was never consistent enough for Baltimore to full invest in him. A knee issue late in the 2021 season disrupted his progress as well. Early in 2022, he was designated for assignment by the Orioles, and while he did clear waivers and play for the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, a series of injuries limited him to just twenty-nine games, and he elected free agency following the season.

It’s common for teams to take a flier on free agents who were once-promising prospects but hadn’t played up to their perceived potential yet. The Mets did just that with DJ Stewart when they signed him to a minor league contract with a spring training invite in early February 2023. Stewart had an impressive spring for the Mets last year, batting .370 in 19 games, with a 1.195 OPS. He even hit a triple, something he had never (and still hasn’t ever) done during a regular season game. That feat came as part of a component of when he hit for the cycle in a game against the Cardinals last March. And while Stewart didn’t make last season’s Opening Day roster, he continued to display his power with Triple-A. In 51 games with Syracuse, Stewart his 16 home runs, drove home 41 runs, and had an .878 OPS.

The Mets called DJ Stewart up to the big club in early July and he remained there until the end of the season. When New York traded away many of their key players for prospects, Stewart took advantage of his newfound playing time. From mid-August until the end of the season, Stewart 10 home runs, 23 RBIs, and a .926 OPS. He also proved to be a more reliable fielder than previously advertised. This was enough to earn him a new one-year contract with the Mets, which came with expectations that he would make the big club out of camp.

Coming into spring training this year, the general consensus was that the Mets would leave Port St. Lucie with both Mark Vientos and DJ Stewart on the roster, with the expectation that they would share designated hitter duties, while spelling regular starters in the field when needed. These plans changed last week when the Mets signed JD Martinez to be their fulltime DH. Vientos was subsequently sent to the minors to begin his season with Syracuse. Even though the idea of JD batting from the right side and DJ batting from the left side sounds fun, it’s unlikely that the Mets would keep Stewart up in Queens, whenever Martinez is ready to make his Mets debut. Stewart is option-able, and with 19 games in 20 days (after Opening Day was pushed to Friday due to rain), they’re likely going to need pitching. Thus, Stewart is considered the 26th man on the current roster and will likely be the first man sent down when Martinez joins the team, which will probably be in 10-15 days.

Then again, as anyone who’s watched DJ Stewart in his brief Mets career can tell you, he can do a plenty in those 10-15 days to make the Mets alter their plans.

Shai Kushner
Shai Kushnerhttps://mlbreport.com/
Shai Kushner, is a seasoned sports journalist and versatile professional deeply embedded in the world of baseball. Since 2014, Shai has been a trusted voice covering the New York Mets for BaseballDigest.com and GothamBaseball.com. Before his journalism career, he served as a video engineer for the Mets Baseball Operations department.


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