The Carter Stewart Story

With the conclusion of the shortened MLB draft that took place last week, let’s take a look at a relatively unknown story that could be the norm for high school seniors and junior college players.

Carter Stewart was a 19-year-old pitcher who signed a long-term contract in 2019 with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Nippon Professional League (NPL) in Japan. The 6-year deal guarantees Stewart $6 million dollars with the opportunity to earn up to 3x more after bonuses. Prior to signing the contract, Stewart was projected to be a high second-round pick where he could’ve earned a $1.5 million signing bonus. His signing bonus with the Hawks awarded him $4.5 million.

Drafted straight out of high school in the 1st round by the Atlanta Braves in the 2018 draft, Stewart could have signed for $4.98 million dollars. However, after failing his post-draft physical, the Braves only offered him $2 million so Stewart declined to head to junior college. After 1 year in junior college, Stewart entered the 2019 draft but found no teams were interested in selecting him in the 1st round again which meant he was projected to sign for the aforementioned price of $1.5 million.

That’s when the Hawks contacted Stewart’s agent, the legendary Scott Boras, to see if he had any intention of playing in Japan. Stewart visited Japan, loved the culture, and realized he would get paid an exponentially greater sum of money to pitch overseas than if he were to stay in the states. The NPL has produced major league pitchers such as Masahiro Tanaka, Yu Darvish and Hideo Nomo. Additionally, the NPL uses a smaller ball, has a smaller strike zone, and has smaller playing fields than the MLB. Besides that, it’s the same game of baseball.

Similar to Jalen Green’s move to forego college basketball and skip straight to the G-League, Stewart’s move could have ramifications for other amateur baseball players who feel they are being undervalued by MLB organizations. With the MLB shortening the draft and organizations around the league cutting minor league players, the road to the MLB could be through another country such as Japan or even South Korea. While a select few minor league players get signing bonuses upwards of seven figures, the majority get paid scraps then make below minimum wage during the season. Stewart’s route allows him to make millions of dollars from the beginning without toiling away in the minor leagues. Will more amateur players try to skip the minor leagues by signing professional contracts overseas? Comment below or visit our forums.

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