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Dragons 2024 Team Preview, Part 5: Third Basemen

Top-10 Prospect Sal Stewart Expected to Return to Dragons
Sal Stewart Celebrates a Walk-Off Home Run in 2023 at Day Air Ballpark
March 19, 2024

Dayton Dragons 2024 Team Preview: Part 5—The Third Basemen By Tom Nichols The Dayton Dragons will open their 24th season in the Midwest League at Day Air Ballpark on Friday, April 5th against the Lansing Lugnuts at 7:05 p.m. The opening night contest against Lansing is the first of 66

Dayton Dragons 2024 Team Preview: Part 5—The Third Basemen

By Tom Nichols

The Dayton Dragons will open their 24th season in the Midwest League at Day Air Ballpark on Friday, April 5th against the Lansing Lugnuts at 7:05 p.m. The opening night contest against Lansing is the first of 66 home games for the Dragons in 2024, and the start to a 132-game season. Over the month of March, we will provide an eight-part positional preview of the candidates for the Dragons 2024 roster. For information on Dragons season tickets, group tickets, or single-game tickets, go to or call (937) 228-2287.

Spring training is currently underway in Goodyear, Arizona. There are approximately 165 minor league players in competition for roster spots within the Cincinnati Reds organization. Each Reds minor league team will play a spring schedule through March 31. The Dragons will arrive in Dayton on April 2.

This is part five of an eight-part series previewing the 2024 Dragons. Players listed here are candidates for positions on the Dragons season-opening roster.

This preview is an unofficial projection of possible roster candidates. Minor League rosters are not established until April 2. Spring training variables including performance, injuries, trades, and additional player acquisitions will impact the roster accordingly.

The Third Basemen

Click links on each name for career stats and player information.

Candidates: Sal Stewart.

View Stewart’s first home run with the Dragons:

Sal Stewart is one of two position players expected to open the 2024 season with the Dragons who is ranked among the Reds top-10 prospects by most every rating service. Stewart is rated as the Reds #6 prospect by and #7 by Baseball America. Second baseman/center fielder Carlos Jorge is also a top-10 prospect who is expected to start the year with the Dragons.

Stewart was the 32nd pick of the first round in the 2022 draft, the second selection by the Reds that year (third baseman Cam Collier was taken by the Reds with the 18th overall selection). Stewart finished the 2023 season with the Dragons after spending most of the year with Single-A Daytona.

Stewart is a native of the Miami, Florida area and played high school baseball at Westminster Christian, the same school that produced Alex Rodriguez, the #1 overall pick of the 1993 draft who went on to appear in 14 MLB all-star games and ranks fifth in baseball history in career home runs. As a high school senior, Stewart batted .514 and had more home runs (9) than strikeouts (6). Entering the draft in 2022, Baseball America profiled Stewart with these comments:

“Stewart pairs power with impressive bat-to-ball ability and scouts were particularly impressed with how he tracked and did damage against breaking stuff. He controls the zone at an impressive rate and should have power that plays to all fields.”

Stewart began his first full season of professional baseball in 2023 with Single-A Daytona and was one of the youngest players in the league at the age of 19. He split time with Collier at third base and improved dramatically during his time with the Tortugas. On May 30, Stewart was hitting just .207 with just one home run and only four doubles in 38 games. But beginning May 31 and continuing until he was promoted to the Dragons on August 7, Stewart produced like a different player. In 50 games, he batted .315 with nine home runs, 15 doubles, and more walks (36) than strikeouts (34). His OPS in those 50 games with Daytona was .976 with a slugging percentage of .547 and an on-base percentage of .429. That is an all-star quality slash line.

Stewart joined the Dragons in 2023 at the start of a two-week road trip on August 7. He immediately picked up right where he left off in Daytona and impressed his new coaching staff with his mental approach to hitting, particularly with two strikes. Stewart played in 29 games for the Dragons and hit .291 with a pair of home runs including the only walk-off homer of the year by a Dayton hitter. For the year, combining his Dayton statistics with what he compiled with Daytona, Stewart played in 117 games and batted .275 with 12 home runs and an .811 OPS. Most impressively for a hitter who was among the youngest players in the leagues he played in, Stewart finished the season with more walks (84) than strikeouts (77). Stewart is not a blazing fast runner, but he is a smart player on the bases and he finished the season with 15 stolen bases. He was 5 for 5 as a base stealer with the Dragons.

Stewart also impressed observers with the improvement he made on defense. He entered professional baseball amidst speculation that he would eventually have to move to first base due to athletic limitations, but he played solid defense at third all season. He committed just eight errors at a position that often features players at the Single-A level with 20 errors or more.

MLBPipeline describes Stewart like this: “A baseball rat, Stewart loves to work on his game, and he’s already showing he can really hit. He has impressive bat-to-ball skills and a very advanced approach, walking more than he struck out in 2023. It’s loud contact with high exit velocities and he started to tap into his raw power. More of that is likely to come as he progresses, with confidence he’s never going to need to sell out or sacrifice his approach for power. Stewart played basketball in high school, and the Reds have been pleasantly surprised with his overall athleticism and footwork. He does have below-average speed but has made efforts to rework his body…His bat will carry him to the big leagues, and he could really take off in 2024.”

Baseball America identifies Stewart’s “savvy understanding of the game.” They describe his “up-the-middle hitting approach, and 10 of his 12 home runs were hit to center field or the power alleys…The pleasant surprise for the Reds was Stewart’s athleticism…Stewart’s bat has largely been as advertised. He strings together professional at-bats. His fielding has proven to be better than expected.”

Stewart is a player from which much was expected due to his lofty draft status, but he has played above those expectations and is improving rapidly. He should be a big bat and clubhouse leader for the Dragons on opening night.

Next up: Outfielders