Yesterday Robert Stephenson, the Reds number one prospect, very quietly had a very good box score against the Rockies at home: 7 IP, 1 ER, 3 K, 2 BB and 3 H. The question how did he earn those numbers? Was he dominant? How did he look overall? Should he be stashed in leagues with a deep bench?
After last nights start Stephenson was sent back to Triple-A so he will not have an immediate impact for fantasy, but with the likes of Jon Moscot and Alfredo Simon in the Reds rotation it’s only a matter of time before Stephenson receives a long look in the majors.
Throughout his professional career Stephenson’s biggest roadblock to success has been command. Since joining Double-A he’s had walk rates no lower than 11.2 percent (which was last year in Triple-A). After watching his start against the Rockies I’m not surprised his walk rates have been that high. Of the 24 batters he faced, eight of them had hitters counts.
The biggest reason why he had so many hitters counts was fastball command. His fastball can top out 97 mph, but when he was throwing the fastball faster than 94 they were mostly for balls. He was able to throw more strikes with a lower fastball velocity.
When he was able to get ahead in the count that’s when he could throw that really good curveball for swings and misses and to generate weak contact. From my noticed there were five swings and misses out of 14-15 swings on the curveball. What was most impressive was the curveball was effective against both righties and lefties. He also featured a split-changeup that showed promise, but he wasn’t able to throw it for strikes so I didn’t a good gauge of how good it could really be.
Bottom Line: Stephenson is going to be in the majors this year. When he arrives is entirely on him. Last year the Reds used nine rookie pitchers (Stephenson was not one of them) so the Reds are not hesitant to use young arms. If he starts to throw strikes consistently he could be up as early as May. If he continues to not throw strikes it could be a late second half call-up.
If he can have a walk rate in the 7-8 percent range he should be an every week starter in 12-team mixed leagues (in most weeks) because he should have plenty of strikeouts and since he pitches in the NL he’s going to face a lot of bad offenses. He hasn’t shown a lot of strikeouts in the majors, but his minor league number suggests there’s a lot of room for improvement. He’s going to be a WHIP and Wins liability, but the strikeout potential is too good to pass up. If he was able to throw 200 innings I think 175 strikeouts is his floor. That may not sound like a lot, but only 26 pitchers had that many strikeouts last year.
If I was in a NFBC league and I had a roster spot to spare I would pick up Stephenson and stash him.