MSU baseball program expects decision on Stewart soon

Mississippi State baseball coach Chris Lemonis visits with the media on Wednesday.

Staff Writer

It won’t be too much longer before Mississippi State learns if it’ll have first-round Major League Baseball Draft choice and signee Carter Stewart on its roster.

New MSU head baseball coach Chris Lemonis met with reporters on Wednesday for the first time since his introductory press conference last month and said a decision on Stewart’s plans isn’t far off.

“I think it’s going to be coming soon because school will be starting, but we don’t have an exact date,” Lemonis said.

Stewart was picked eighth overall by the Atlanta Braves in last month’s MLB Draft. The right-handed pitcher out of Eau Gallie (Florida) High School is a high-ceiling hurler best known for a curveball that generates a spin rate of more than 3,000 rotations per minute – a number in line with elite major league pitchers.

Despite his talent level, Stewart and the Braves were unable to come to an agreement ahead of the July 6 deadline. Reportedly, a wrist issue discovered in Stewart’s post-draft medical review caused Atlanta to offer Stewart only around 40 percent of the nearly $5 million slot value for the eighth overall pick.

With no agreement reached, Stewart is free to come to Starkville and begin his collegiate career with Mississippi State, however he could also elect to go to a junior college instead. By going the junior college route, Stewart would be eligible to reenter the MLB Draft next year. That would not be the case if he came to MSU.

Lemonis and new Mississippi State pitching coach Scott Foxhall have both been in constant contact with Stewart as he plans his future.

“We’re talking with Carter and working through some things,” Lemonis said. “It’s been a tough month for him and his family you can imagine, but we’re talking with Carter weekly and still working on it.”

Foxhall said his pitch to Stewart was a personal one just to give him an idea of what he can expect should he pick to come to Mississippi State.

“I know what I did personally was tell (Stewart) the reason that I came,” Foxhall said. “I told him about my trust in (Lemonis) and getting to know (MSU assistant coach Jake Gautreau) and how good of a person he is. I talked in my opening statement to him just about the commitment here. I can’t imagine a better situation for an 18-to-21 year old than to be a baseball player at Mississippi State.”

Ashcraft, Vansau transferring

Lemonis also said pitcher Graham Ashcraft and outfielder Hunter Vansau will not be a part of the MSU program next year as both players have elected to transfer.

Vansau struggled throughout the 2018 season for the Bulldogs. His playing time dwindled as the season wore on and he finished the year hitting just .191.

Ashcraft was plagued by hip injuries in his MSU career. He missed the entire 2018 season, but appeared in 10 games during an injury-shortened 2017 campaign, starting five of those contests. Ashcraft had a 5.62 earned run average that season and opponents hit .270 against him.

Alexander’s future in question

It’s unclear if Luke Alexander will return to the MSU baseball team in 2019.

The shortstop, who started every game last season and provided several clutch, walk-off hits, is dealing with undisclosed issues that have put his Bulldog future in question.

“We’re working through some things right now,” Lemonis said of Alexander. “I can’t really comment too much on that. We’re just trying to work on some things in that area.”