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November 22, 2013

Raising Aces

Bush League: Robert Stephenson

by Doug Thorburn


Robert Stephenson was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the first round (no. 27 overall) of the 2011 draft. Selected out of a northern California high school, Stephenson was the first prep pitcher to be popped in the first round by Cincy since Homer Bailey was taken with the seventh-overall pick in 2004. Stephenson began the 2012 season in extended spring training and did not make his professional debut until June of that year, but he cruised through rookie ball and spent two months with Dayton of the Midwest League. He returned to Dayton to begin the 2013 season, where Stephenson stepped on the accelerator and quickly rose up through the system.

GS

IP

ERA

K %

BB %

H %

HR %

A

14

77.0

2.57

31.3%

6.5%

18.2%

1.6%

A+

4

20.7

3.05

26.5%

2.4%

22.9%

3.6%

AA

4

16.7

4.86

24.0%

17.3%

22.7%

2.7%

The right-hander earned each of his promotions with his performance on the field. He had a rocky start to the season, with a 5.77 ERA through his first six starts of the year, but Stephenson rebounded to steamroll through the Midwest League over his next eight turns. The tally: 49.3 innings of 0.87 ERA baseball, including 61 strikeouts against just eight walks and a mere 23 hits allowed. He suffered a strained hamstring in mid-June that derailed the train mid-steam, causing him to miss a month before resuming his ownership of A-ball.

Stephenson was promoted to the California League and kept shoving it, convincing the Reds to give him another jump after just four starts for Bakersfield. The Double-A outings was far less impressive, and the walk rate in particular jumps out in spite of the paltry sample size; he walked more batters in each of his first three Double-A starts than he had free-passed in his entire High-A stint (two), including a five-walk fiasco in his final home start of the regular season.

Stephenson ran out of steam at the end of the line, and he also took some time to gain speed out of the station, but the player on display at peak was worth the ticket price. Luckily, MiLB.tv was there for several of his starts throughout the season, including those on the bookends, allowing us to sit in the passenger car and evaluate the trip.

April 4th @ West Michigan (A)
Stephenson made his debut on a cold day in Michigan, where the fans were all bundled up in their parkas and beanies. The game-feed lacked announcers or radar-gun readings, so any evaluations of velocity are left to the error-bars of subjectivity, but hitters were mostly behind on the heat throughout the ballgame. The more glaring trend was Stephenson's tendency to leave the fastball up and to the arm-side of his targets, an issue of timing that was due to late rotation.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Minor League Update: I... (11/22)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Raising Aces: Bush Lea... (11/15)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Raising Aces: Diff'ren... (12/06)
Next Article >>
Baseball Prospectus Ne... (11/22)

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