Tall, lanky frame with some upper-body development throughout torso; legs up to his neck; frame built to withstand 200-plus innings of work; arm action is compact after an initial deep plunge on the back side; hides the ball well; high three-quarters arm slot; drop-and-drive delivery with good momentum throughout; great separation between his two halves achieved by a slight upper-body dip over the rubber after reaching his balance point; lands square on a bent front leg and achieves some extension out front; can be a little upright at times; head displays some violence in follow through. Pitcher generates good momentum throughout delivery and possesses an incredibly quick arm.
Pensacola Blue Wahoos (AA, Reds)
55; no. 3/4 starter
Velocity: plus; sat comfortably in the plus range throughout the outing, touching higher. Command: below average; struggled to find the zone early in counts and throw quality strikes; worked from behind in the count a majority of the evening. Movement: plus arm-side bore, specifically in the low-90s; pitch can flatten out a bit due to delivery but pitcher creates good angle with higher slot; difficult to square when located in the lower quadrants; becomes hittable up in the zone. Comments: Stephenson relied on the fastball heavily in this outing and hitters jumped on it early in counts, forcing him to make a secondary adjustment with his sequencing. The offering was very hittable up in the zone, and Stephenson seemed to focus more on blowing pitches by hitters rather than locating effectively within the zone. With that being said, Stephenson's frame and the potential for added mass, in combination with his mechanics and lightning-quick arm, lead me to believe there could be a little more velocity in the tank.
Command: fringe average; flashed ability to bury the pitch for whiffs and drop it in the zone for weak contact/whiffs; struggled to consistently get over the curveball, leaving it hanging up in the zone; feel for pitch comes and goes. Movement: flashes plus or better 11/5 break late in pitch's trajectory with sharp two-plane slice; bat-missing break when snapped off effectively; pitch displays great shape; break can be elongated/not as sharp when pitcher gets around offering. Comments: Stephenson's curveball is legit and flashes plus-plus potential, but command concerns with the offering and with the entire arsenal downplay the pitch's overall future utility.
Command: below average; left pitch up and to the arm side frequently; lacked feel for pitch; struggled to harness it; pitcher was very deliberate with the offering. Movement: straight; flashed the slightest bit of run but was mostly flat up and out of the zone; elicited a whiff from a right-handed hitter under his hands, flashing some sink. Comments: It was obvious that Stephenson was working on this pitch throughout the outing, but it was too firm and he showed little ability to spot it in this look. I do not envision this pitch becoming a weapon at the highest level.
Stephenson is a special arm, one with the potential to have two high-end pitches with the fastball and curveball. Along with the below-average changeup, the command profile is the bugaboo currently and will very likely be an issue going forward. It's easy to see the enormous potential in the arsenal, but in this outing, Stephenson looked the part of a mid-rotation starter who flashes front-of-the-rotation stuff but lacks the command profile to anchor a rotation. Though he's currently in Double-A, Stephenson needs a good bit of time to develop and refine his arsenal. An appearance at the highest level in the latter part of 2015 would not be a surprise with a shot at a rotation spot the following season fully in his sights.