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Robert Stephenson - SP CIN

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A bit more on Stephenson:

http://www.courier-journal.com/story/sports/mlb/minors/louisville-bats/2015/07/08/louisville-bats-pitching-prospect-robert-stephenson-fast-track-cincinnati-reds/29897219/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

To watch Stephenson at work Wednesday night for the Louisville Bats was to see a fast-track fireballer destined for a bigger stage. Struggling to throw strikes, imprecise in his location, Stephenson nonetheless threw six shutout innings in the Bats' 3-2 victory over the Indianapolis Indians, his second victory in two Triple-A starts.

Inconsistent command is not normally an ingredient of baseball success, but Stephenson compensates with velocity, movement and the much-prized ability to avoid bats. He struck out six Wednesday – causing, unofficially, 15 swing-and-misses -- and he did so without unleashing his high-end heat.

"Last year I saw him hit 100 (miles per hour) a couple times," said Jeff Fassero, who was Stephenson's pitching coach with the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos prior to his promotion to the Bats. "He was young and he threw hard, and that's all he was thinking about. You get to a higher level, and you find out that doesn't work.

"He took some off and learned to pitch down there. Now, he's pitching 93-94 and having more in the tank if he has to go to it. ... When he's at his best, the hitter's looking at a lot of trouble."

Stephenson says he has deliberately sacrificed some velocity to gain greater command of his repertoire, and that he may "dial it up a little bit" as he becomes more confident of throwing strikes. Bats manager Delino DeShields says the development of a new split-fingered fastball has made the pitcher sufficiently dangerous to deserve major-league consideration.

"His fastball was live, which it usually is," DeShields said of Stephenson's work Wednesday night. "It was a little up in the zone at times, but his secondary stuff was really good today. His split-finger and his curve ball is what he relied on pretty much to get those swing-and-misses. That was the best I've seen him to this point."

As the Reds' No. 1 selection of the 2011 amateur draft, Stephenson has long excited scouts with his potential, but refinement has been a more recent development. Just last year, Stephenson led the Southern League in walks and home runs allowed as well as strikeouts and, Fassero said, was slow to appreciate that his coaches were on his side.

"We had battles last year," Fassero said. "(But) Coming into this year, he was a different person. He started to understand that I was here to help him. I just think that's his personality. It takes him a while to warm up and trust people."

If Stephenson has grown more receptive to instruction, his recent results have reinforced that it's a good way to go. Wednesday marked the 12th straight start he had held opponents to three runs or less, and he left the mound with the hitters holding steady with a .199 average against him this year.

"I still think there's definitely some work to be done, to get ahead in the count," Stephenson said. "(But) I'm definitely happy so far. There are still some things I need to work on. As soon as those get straightened out, I'll be ready for the major leagues."

"He can go there today, honestly, from what I saw tonight," DeShields said. "That's really where he's going to learn. That's going to be the finishing touches in the big leagues. You can only learn so much down here in the minor leagues. The rest of the educational process has to take place up there."

Asked if he would recommend Stephenson for promotion, DeShields looked up from his desk and leaned back in his chair.

"I'd take him," he said.

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A bit more on Stephenson:

http://www.courier-journal.com/story/sports/mlb/minors/louisville-bats/2015/07/08/louisville-bats-pitching-prospect-robert-stephenson-fast-track-cincinnati-reds/29897219/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

To watch Stephenson at work Wednesday night for the Louisville Bats was to see a fast-track fireballer destined for a bigger stage. Struggling to throw strikes, imprecise in his location, Stephenson nonetheless threw six shutout innings in the Bats' 3-2 victory over the Indianapolis Indians, his second victory in two Triple-A starts.

Inconsistent command is not normally an ingredient of baseball success, but Stephenson compensates with velocity, movement and the much-prized ability to avoid bats. He struck out six Wednesday – causing, unofficially, 15 swing-and-misses -- and he did so without unleashing his high-end heat.

"Last year I saw him hit 100 (miles per hour) a couple times," said Jeff Fassero, who was Stephenson's pitching coach with the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos prior to his promotion to the Bats. "He was young and he threw hard, and that's all he was thinking about. You get to a higher level, and you find out that doesn't work.

"He took some off and learned to pitch down there. Now, he's pitching 93-94 and having more in the tank if he has to go to it. ... When he's at his best, the hitter's looking at a lot of trouble."

Stephenson says he has deliberately sacrificed some velocity to gain greater command of his repertoire, and that he may "dial it up a little bit" as he becomes more confident of throwing strikes. Bats manager Delino DeShields says the development of a new split-fingered fastball has made the pitcher sufficiently dangerous to deserve major-league consideration.

"His fastball was live, which it usually is," DeShields said of Stephenson's work Wednesday night. "It was a little up in the zone at times, but his secondary stuff was really good today. His split-finger and his curve ball is what he relied on pretty much to get those swing-and-misses. That was the best I've seen him to this point."

As the Reds' No. 1 selection of the 2011 amateur draft, Stephenson has long excited scouts with his potential, but refinement has been a more recent development. Just last year, Stephenson led the Southern League in walks and home runs allowed as well as strikeouts and, Fassero said, was slow to appreciate that his coaches were on his side.

"We had battles last year," Fassero said. "(But) Coming into this year, he was a different person. He started to understand that I was here to help him. I just think that's his personality. It takes him a while to warm up and trust people."

If Stephenson has grown more receptive to instruction, his recent results have reinforced that it's a good way to go. Wednesday marked the 12th straight start he had held opponents to three runs or less, and he left the mound with the hitters holding steady with a .199 average against him this year.

"I still think there's definitely some work to be done, to get ahead in the count," Stephenson said. "(But) I'm definitely happy so far. There are still some things I need to work on. As soon as those get straightened out, I'll be ready for the major leagues."

"He can go there today, honestly, from what I saw tonight," DeShields said. "That's really where he's going to learn. That's going to be the finishing touches in the big leagues. You can only learn so much down here in the minor leagues. The rest of the educational process has to take place up there."

Asked if he would recommend Stephenson for promotion, DeShields looked up from his desk and leaned back in his chair.

"I'd take him," he said.

For two years in a row, Baseball Prospectus has slapped 70s on his fastball and curve... the command is literally what's been holding him back, as he's also shown an average change. If that splitfinger is truly a weapon, look out. Two 70-grade pitches is a rare combination to find in the first place (Berrios, for example, has 3 60-grade pitches according to BP), but adding a third weapon to that mix could be deadly.

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Once Cueto is gone in the next few weeks, I do not see any reason the Leg's will not at least give him a try sooner rather than later.....

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Does he get the call if/when Cueto is traded ? He's been pretty solid outside of that one hiccup start.

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8 IP - 0 ER - 10Ks/1 BB - 2 H

Would think he gets the call if Leake gets moved? I want to make the jump.

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8 IP - 0 ER - 10Ks/1 BB - 2 H

Would think he gets the call if Leake gets moved? I want to make the jump.

That's filthy! Make the move before your competition sees that box score.

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Stephenson= young Trevor Bauer

A ton of talent, multiple plus pitches, but control is a concern.

I can see a lot of ups and downs for his first few seasons in the bigs

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Leake gone. Lamb pitched tonight and Stephenson would be on 4 days rest to take Leakes spot on Sunday.

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As a Reds fan, I just don't see them bringing him up yet. Theres no reason to rush him to the majors until he is definitely ready to stay. I'd imagine the Reds FO would want to see a few more consistent starts first. If I had to guess, I think he'll be a September call up.

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Stephenson done for the day:

89 Pitches, 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

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Any idea when the Reds decide to bring up Stephenson and Finnegan and start getting them valuable experience? Both are ready to log big league innings with little left to prove in the minors.

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Any idea when the Reds decide to bring up Stephenson and Finnegan and start getting them valuable experience? Both are ready to log big league innings with little left to prove in the minors.

At this point I don't think any of them will be called up this year asides from a sip of coffee in September. Despite the need for quality, the Reds staff has enough pitchers to fill-in at this point without having to press either of Finnegan or Stephenson to the majors. Stephenson really just started harnessing his control over this past season so I would still allow him to continue to build confidence and fine tune his repertoire. As for Finnegan, he is still having walk issues as a starter. I think in his last start Finnegan only last 2.1ip with 3bb and 0k.

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i think the upside is a #1 ace of the staff, but his (apparently previous) command problem paired with the Reds home field have me cautious.

He has shown a lot of improvement since his promotion to AAA, Im wondering if he can stay consistent. A lot of potential.

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Just got pulled in the 3rd inning due to an injury..

This was after he was having control problems, walking four batters. Not good.

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Anybody have video of his new changeup? I'm pretty decent at scouting changeups, but the video I found he only threw fastballs and curves

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So I just noticed Baseball America, in their top 100 (in which Stephenson ranks 32), gave his CHANGEUP a 70 future grade. Is his new change really that great? Because that's the third pitch I've seen get slapped with a 70 on various sites.

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^I'm not sure if it's a plus-plus, but I have heard it's improved.

Someone asked Day on twitter about how Stephenson's looked thus far:

Jim Day @JimDayTV Feb 26

I'm no expert but much improved. The changeup he's developed is a difference maker. It's all about command for him

Last part is key there. Command, command, command.

Good details here on Stephenson:

Stephenson made a big one before last season that helped inch him closer to the majors. The righty’s change-up wasn’t much more than a junk pitch after he entered pro ball, but he featured a devastating one when he was in high school. The Reds had concerns about the pitch’s effect on his arm, though, and asked him to change grips after Stephenson was drafted.

After the 2013 season, in which he had a 4.75 ERA in 136 1/3 innings, Stephenson petitioned pitching coach Mark Riggins, then serving as minor-league pitching coordinator, for permission to go back to his old change-up. Riggins assented, with the caveat that Stephenson tweak the grip a bit to relieve pressure on his forearm.

The pitch quickly went back to a plus offering, and Stephenson pitched to a 3.68 ERA and struck out 10.2 batters per nine innings in 14 Double-A starts before a midseason promotion. (His strikeouts dipped and ERA rose upon his first taste of Triple-A.)

“It wasn’t just a quality pitch, but it was a finished pitch,” Price said. “It had that type of quality to it, something he could use to put away a hitter.

Stephenson felt his curveball backed up a bit from decreased usage last year, but thinks it’ll come back around the more he works it in this spring. That would give him two strong secondary pitches to go along with an intimidating fastball.

The next step is figuring out where the fastball is going. Stephenson has walked four batters per nine innings each of the last two seasons. In 2015, he took a bit off his fastball in an effort to be more precise, although it didn’t make much of a dent in his walk rate.

He felt it made a difference nonetheless.

“I definitely had more in the tank, but at a certain point I almost felt uncomfortable letting it go,” Stephenson said. “I just felt I would have a lot better time locating the ball at a little lower velocity than at a higher velocity. It seemed like that helped out a lot.”

There may be a happy medium between velocity and command for Stephenson, and he’ll try to reach it in spring training. Jenkins said he sees a couple minor mechanical tweaks the young righty should make to help with control, and Price believes with the right delivery Stephenson can have solid control no matter how hard he throws.

FYI Jenkins is the bullpen coach. Looks like Stephenson has changed the grip on the change combined with lowering the velo on the FB.

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Even just a 55 change would improve improve his value a ton for me. His fastball and curve I've seen graded 60 or 70 by a couple sites, so two plus to double plus pitches and an above average change would make him a very, very exciting prospect. Not Giolito/Urias/Glasnow/Reyes tier, but just below that.

As you said, his command is the biggest issue. Weren't there whispers of him making a minor adjustment to his fastball grip to stay on top of the ball more and prevent it sailing on him? Did it make a notable difference?

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Jeremy Rauch @FOX19Jeremy 1h1 hour ago

Man, Robert Stephenson's changeup is filthy.

Doug Gray @dougdirt24 1h1 hour ago

#Reds Robert Stephenson showed off all three pitches in that strikeout. Good breaking ball, real nice splitter.

Doug Gray @dougdirt24 1h1 hour ago

The offspeed stuff is working early for Robert Stephenson, just recorded his second K of the game.

Doug Gray @dougdirt24 1h1 hour ago

The 2nd inning for Robert Stephenson was much better, even though he had to work around a triple. Needed less than 10 pitches.

John Fay @johnfayman 56m56 minutes ago

Stephenson: 2 ip, 1 hit, 1 walk, 2 Ks. Price said today that Stephenson is a candidate for bullpen, rotation. And will pitch ML in ’16

So it sounds like Stephenson has more of a split finger, which sort of explains that article above about the pitching coach being slightly worried about the excess stress on the arm.

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Jeremy Rauch ‏@FOX19Jeremy 1h1 hour ago

Man, Robert Stephenson's changeup is filthy.

Doug Gray ‏@dougdirt24 1h1 hour ago

#Reds Robert Stephenson showed off all three pitches in that strikeout. Good breaking ball, real nice splitter.

Doug Gray ‏@dougdirt24 1h1 hour ago

The offspeed stuff is working early for Robert Stephenson, just recorded his second K of the game.

Doug Gray ‏@dougdirt24 1h1 hour ago

The 2nd inning for Robert Stephenson was much better, even though he had to work around a triple. Needed less than 10 pitches.

John Fay ‏@johnfayman 56m56 minutes ago

Stephenson: 2 ip, 1 hit, 1 walk, 2 Ks. Price said today that Stephenson is a candidate for bullpen, rotation. And will pitch ML in 16

So it sounds like Stephenson has more of a split finger, which sort of explains that article above about the pitching coach being slightly worried about the excess stress on the arm.

Filthy? FILTHY??? I literally jumped for joy reading that. I reached for him precisely because I had faith in his improved changeup, and now to hear that makes me happy. I'll have to see it with my own eyes before I break into my happy dance.

How did his command look?

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^I did not see the game, but this is what I found from MLB.com:

Against the Indians on Wednesday, Stephenson threw two scoreless innings with one hit, one walk and two strikeouts. He threw 33 pitches, including 19 for strikes. In a 24-pitch first inning, the right-hander went to full counts on three of the four batters, but he settled in for the second inning and overcame a two-out triple by Robbie Grossman.

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