Robert Stephenson #39 – 2013 Top 100
Date of Birth: February 24th, 1993(age 20)
Origin: 1st Round Pick(#27 overall) in 2011 out of Alhambra HS(CA)
Evan Rentschler: As I’m the resident Reds fan, you’d think I’d be hawking Stephenson’s every move, but that hasn’t been the case simply because there are so many amazing arms from the 2011 class to follow. He was a Bullpen Banter favorite as a draft prospect, though, and his success this year is of little surprise. Stephenson was already filling out his lanky frame as a high school senior and sitting low-to-mid-90s with the FB. His feel for his curve and an underrated changeup were promising, with the curve in particular looking like a sharp, future plus pitch. Needless to say it was a thrill when the Reds called his number, as he was the highest ceiling pitcher Cincinnati had taken since Homer Bailey.
Whereas Bailey has distanced himself from his fire-balling youth, conceding that pitching at 91-94 is the only way he can stay healthy, it’s hoped that the sturdier Stephenson may be that coveted rarity, a starter who can live in the mid-90s without breaking down. He made it to the Midwest League for eight tightly controlled outings, rarely throwing more than four innings at a time. Most importantly he was working on those secondaries, and there’s increasing optimism that he has the potential for three plus pitches. With the Reds having already locked up Cueto, Latos three years from free agency, Bailey the next on Walt Jocketty’s list to sign, and Corcino and Cingrani on deck, the Reds have every incentive to let Stephenson develop at a steady pace. Bailey was pushed too far too fast, unfairly expected to galvanize a floundering team and its apathetic fan base. Stephenson offers an opportunity to get it right this time.
Michael Schwartze: I know JD is one of Stephenson’s biggest fans and like Evan mentions, he’s a favorite of ours here at Bullpen Banter. I love Stephenson’s big lanky frame that he has been filling into nicely. As he develops and fills out more I could see his fastball sitting much more in the mid 90s to go with the excellent life that the pitch has. I agree with Evan when he talks about Stephenson having three potential plus pitches. The fastball and curveball are both plus pitches and his change has really come around and also shows potential. I think the Reds will most likely take it slow with Stephenson but rightfully so. He has big time potential as a frontline starter and like Evan mentioned, the Reds will want to make sure and get it right with Stephenson.
JD Sussman: I am! Stephenson gets less love for some reason, but how do you differentiate him from Sanchez and Syndergaard with a straight face? Arguably he has the best fastball of the group, a better curve than Syndergaard and his command is superior to Sanchez’s command. I waver back and forth but, by the smallest margins I prefer Sanchez and Syndergaard to Stephenson because a right-handed pitcher needs a changeup, and Stephenson’s off-speed offering lags behind the group. He’s a special arm and could be a top 10 arm by midseason.
Fantasy Outlook by Evan Rentschler
Stephenson has all the makings of a power pitcher; (Healthy) Josh Johnson comes to mind as one possible outcome if the fastball sits mid-90s and the curve develops as hoped. Zack Wheeler is a similar profile among more recent prospects, as Stephens shares Wheeler’s lean but muscular power pitcher’s build, plus-plus heater, and potential swing-and-miss breaking ball. Also like Wheeler his tentative ceiling is that of a strong #2, which spells wins, good ERA and WHIP, and, of course, strikeouts. As mentioned above, there is no need to rush him, so dynasty leaguers benefit now, with a reasonable time frame for scoring relevancy of four to five years. Still, I don’t think the Reds are prone to hold their players back at lower levels, so if the light bulb goes off for Stephenson, he could advance quickly to the upper minors and be of interest to re-draft leagues as soon as two and a half to three years from now.