Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed.  Could it have gone any worse?  Could their numbers be any more eerily similar?

MLB Totals    ERA     IP     H     ER     HR     BB    SO     WHIP
Stephenson    6.86    61.2    74    47    16    35    58    1.768
Reed                7.15    61.2    75    49    15    34    58    1.768

There has been much discussion lately about these two and the state of the Reds starting pitching.  Both of these two pitchers got limited trials in the rotation last year and both struggled.  My hopes entering Spring Training this year was that these two would use their big league starts from last year as a learning experience and continue to develop towards becoming the successful big league starting pitchers their talent suggest they could become.

Then a funny thing happened at the end of Spring Training.  The rebuilding Reds, with their two top SP down with injuries, decided to open the season with these two top SP prospects in the bullpen.  They instead opened the season with a starting rotation comprised of the following pitchers in the 4th and 5th rotation spots.  The number four starter was another prospect, Rookie Davis, with a grand total of 4 GS at AAA with a 7.50 ERA.  The number five starter was a 40 year old who hadn’t pitched since 2014 due to an arm injury.  Having either of these two start the season in the rotation over Stephenson and Reed was a puzzling move to me for a team that claimed to be rebuilding.  If you are rebuilding, don’t you want to see how your closest to MLB ready players perform when an obvious opportunity arises to do so?

Well, the answer for the Reds is obviously no.  The Reds chose to develop Stephenson and Reed with inconsistent work out of the MLB bullpen.  Then as more injuries to starting pitchers cropped up they continued to pass over both Stephenson and Reed (who did get one spot start), while choosing AAAA types to fill out a patchwork rotation.  Is this what a team who is truly rebuilding does?  I would think a rebuilding team would be highlighting the development of these two young starters and probably taking advantage of the rotation openings to give them extended trials to see if they could polish their craft with regular work at the big league level.  If they don’t, fine, you could then have swapped them out for someone in the next wave of pitching prospects who have now accumulated some time at AAA.

As noted above, I found the rebuilding Reds handling of Stephenson and Reed very puzzling.  At least until I read the recent quote below from manager Bryan Price.

“We’re trying to define how we can get more out of our starting pitchers and give ourselves a better chance,” Price said. “If we can get deeper into the game and shorten those games and limit the damage in the early innings, we’re not talking about rebuilding, we’re talking about going to the postseason.”

There you have it.  It’s no longer a rebuild.  It’s no longer about rebuilding and developing prospects for the future.  It appears that their early season success, staying close to .500 despite their starting pitching issues, has deluded them into thinking that this is no longer a rebuild and that they are turning their focus towards making the postseason this year.  That would at least explain why they are resisting placing the likes of Stephenson and Reed into the starting rotation for a lengthy developmental trial.  That would require a lot of patience while these two talented pitchers took some more lumps and lost several games while they attempt to work out their remaining kinks at the major league level.

So in light of the already rebuilt Reds new lack of focus on the development of top prospects and their preference for AAAA players in the pursuit of the postseason, this week’s “This Week on the Farm” will feature only the AAAA players and aspiring AAAA players that may soon be in Cincinnati to aid in the Reds postseason quest.

AAA Louisville Bats

The Bats have a 18 – 33 record and are 4th out of 4 in the International League West.

International League hitters are hitting .254/.322/.394/.716.

C Rob Brantley, .296/.330/.454/.784, is a 27 year old journeyman catcher who could very well be a part time starter later this year if Stuart Turner is returned to the Twins and either Barnhart or Mesoraco gets hurt.  IF/OF Hernan Iribarren, .295/.348/.418/.767, is a 33 year old utility man who most likely will see some more time with the Reds later this season.

International League pitchers have a 3.95 ERA.

RH SP Rob Wooten (6.94 ERA, 26 SO, 5 BB, 6 HR, 23.1 IP), is only 31 years old and licking his chops for a call up, especially since he’s 9 years younger than Arroyo.  Newly acquired RH SP Vin Mazzaro (24.92 ERA in 2 GS) is off to a slow start, but the 30 year old sees a lot of opportunity in the Reds system.  RH SP Austin Ross (1.21 ERA in 9 GS at AA) gave up just 2 R over 8 IP in his first start with the Bats.  Ross, who is 28 years old, now has 71 G with 2 GS at the AAA level with a 4.66 ERA.  RH RP Louis Coleman (2.88 ERA) is 31 years old, has 1 S, and hopes to soon be the Reds closer.  LH RP Lucas Luetge (4.56 ERA) is a 30 year old who has allowed only a .829 OPS to opposing batters.

AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos

The Blue Wahoos have a 29 – 23 record and are 1st out of 5 in the Southern League South.

Southern League hitters are hitting .243/.323/.369/.692.

C Adrian Nieto, .253/.314/.329/.643, is 27 years old, but knows light hitting catchers at AA get selected in the Rule V draft by the Reds.  OF Leon Landry, .180/.215/.247/.462, is also 27 years old and is off to a slow start.

Southern League pitchers have a 3.60 ERA.

RH SP Deck McGuire (2.76 ERA) is 28 years old, already has a 5.26 ERA in 289.1 IP at AAA, and figures he could be the next Lisalverto Bonilla.  RH RP Robert Stock, (2.52 ERA at A+ in 25 IP) is 27 years old, has a 6.75 ERA in his first 2.2 IP with Pensacola, and is just a year removed from Independent League play.

High A Daytona Tortugas

The Tortugas have a 27 – 25 record and are 3rd out of 6 in the Florida State League North.

Florida State League hitters are hitting .255/.324/.371/.694.

OF Reydel Medina, .217/.275/.362/.637, is a bit old for the league at 24 years old, but figures to be hitting league average soon.  C Garrett Boulware, .238/.262/.302/.563 is also 24 and pleased to be out hitting the Reds top prospect catcher on the same team.

Florida State League pitchers have a 3.65 ERA.

RH SP Jonathon Crawford, (3.54 ERA), is 25 years old and still in A+ but figures he’s on a good track being in the Reds organization.  RH RP Jake Paulson (5.08 ERA) is also 25 years old and is happy to have gotten a spot start this year as all the best opportunities with the Reds are as a SP.

Low A Dayton Dragons

The Dragons have a 34 – 18 record and are 2nd out of 8 in the Midwest League Eastern.

Midwest League hitters are hitting .246/.321/.375/.697.

1B James Vasquez, .250/.331/.433/.764, at 24 years old, is 3 years older than league average and repeating A ball with the Dragons this year.  3B John Sansone, .221/.310/.393/.703, is 23 years old and thrilled to be just above league average.

Midwest League pitchers have a 3.86 ERA.

RH RP Aaron Fossas (2.15 ERA), is the elder statesman on the pitching staff at 24 years old and his name is only one a short of AAAA already.

26 Responses

  1. jeffversion1.0

    This is the kind of spot-on analysis that brings me back to this site time and time again. You’ve done us all a service highlighting the true future Reds. Thanks!


  2. weigarp

    I respectfully disagree. Stevenson was eaten up and spit out by MLB pitchers in 2016. Reed was the same. However, Reed’s minor league track record suggests that he should have some MLB success, while Stevenson’s track record through the minor leagues left much to be desired, especially 2014-2016. If the Reds ever get healthy, those AAAA starting pitchers will not even sniff the major leagues, but neither will Stevenson or Reed, unless they show some marked improvement in AAA (or is it AAAA?).

    • Big56dog

      Stephenson was hardly was spit out — his 1st 3 starts were decent-
      17.1 IP- 6 ER, 5BB, 13 K, he had some decent outing this season, but was not used consistently enough. 27K in 24 innings tells me there is talent if can get command of the strike zone, pitched poorly in Sept likely due to being worn out at over 160 IP

  3. Ethan Hunt

    I will say that it is easier to make excuses than to expect performance. Are not both of these young men professional athletes paid to pitch? They didn’t perform. I don’t blame the Reds. I blame the players. After all it is Reed and Stephenson that climbed the mound and threw the ball. Blame management as mismanagement. I will blame the players for not earning their paycheck

    • I-71_Exile

      Agree. This was a bitter snark-fest and just more beating of this year’s RLN twin dead horses: Arroyo’s age, and Reed/Stephenson’s victimhood. Poor fellas.

      • Big56dog

        Reed got one start, Stephenson got none, look at the stats of the guys that got multiple starts and justify how they failed at their shot

    • eric3287

      This would make more sense if the guys getting the starts were at least replacement level guys. They aren’t. They are, in a word, horrible.

      Bronson – 6.62 ERA, 7.24 FIP (worst in the NL by a healthy margin among qualified starters), , -.8 WAR, 10 starts
      Bonilla – 7.71 ERA, 6.94 FIP, -.4 WAR, 4 starts. He’s never really been a starter and has spent 3 years getting beat up in AAA.
      Asher W. – 5.63 ERA, 7.54 FIP, -.2 WAR, 1 start (so far).

      So that’s 15 starts and counting given to guys with a collect -1.4 WAR. Reed and Stephenson aren’t being supplanted by established major leaguers or even replacement level players. Calling those three AAAA is probably misleading, seeing as they probably wouldn’t even dominate AAA.

      There are generally 3 ways to develop pitchers:
      1) Bring up young starting pitchers to pitch out of the bullpen regularly when you have a good rotation that they are unable to make out of camp.
      2) Throw them in to the major league rotation to let them take their lumps when you think they have learned all they can in AAA.
      3) Leave them in AAA to get regular starts until an opening comes ini the major league rotation.

      The Reds chose option 4 – let them waste away in the bullpen while starters get pummeled and injured.

      • Ethan Hunt

        Stephenson and Reed didn’t perform with the opportunities given. It’s that simple. Chapman was thrown to the wolves as a reliever…. He performed. Iglesias… Performed well. Lorenzen…. Performed well. Just 3 examples you perform well you get to pitch in the majors. You don’t perform well you go away. These guys are all in their 20s. Nobody is wearing diapers here. No need for handling with care. Go pitch do a good job see your role expanded.

      • eric3287

        I think an argument can be made that the Reds might actually have a better record, or at least not worse, if you take the 21 starts made by Romano, Arroyo, Davis, Bonilla, and Asher and give 7 a piece to Stephenson, Reed, and Lorenzen. The offense managed to go 9-12 in those 21 starts. I can’t imagine it being much worse, if any. Plus, you’re better positioned for future success.

      • I-71_Exile

        For comparison’s sake:

        Robert Stephenson — 8.03 ERA, 6.48 FIP, -0.9 WAR, 1.986 WHIP(!)
        Cody Reed — 6.43 ERA, 6.90 FIP, -0.2 WAR, 1 start, 1.643 WHIP

        We can only speculate why the Reds have handled Stephenson/Reed the way they have and absent that information, who is to judge? Here’s my speculation: the Reds are so concerned with innings limits that they are spreading them around as liberally as possible, including giving starts to minor league reaches in the hopes that they might steal some quality innings until opposing teams get film on them. Some of the guys they have started may even get exposed to waivers once the (mythical?) cavalry arrives.

        Also, Lorenzen is not going to start this year no how many people demand it.

      • eric3287

        “Here’s my speculation: the Reds are so concerned with innings limits that they are spreading them around as liberally as possible, including giving starts to minor league reaches in the hopes that they might steal some quality innings until opposing teams get film on them”

        This might have some merit if the pitching staff were fully healthy. They aren’t, not by a long shot. Within the next month, the Reds figure to have Garrett, Finnegan, and Bailey healthy. With Garret’s demotion/DL time, you figure he’ll be OK to start the rest of the year. So by the time July rolls around, you figure the rotation would be Feldman, Finnegan, Garrett, Bailey, Arroyo or Adleman. That’s just based on how the Reds have acted up until this point. With a 4.08 FIP and being 3 years removed from throwing 180 innings, no one is trading for him.

        Towards the end of July, you figure the Reds plan on having Desclafani back too. So now you have Disco, Finnegan, Garrett, Bailey, Feldman/Arroyo/Adleman.

        Looking at that, I’m not sure where you get Reed/Stephenson in if not at the beginning of the year. The injuries should have been a blessing in disguise. Use the first half of the year to let the kids pitch, and as the established guys get healthy you can shut down the young guys at their innings limit, limit their innings when you get a glut of healthy starting pitchers, or send them down if they struggle.

        As to that last point, if now isn’t the year to try Lorenzen in the rotation, when? I don’t disagree with you’re assessment, I know Price refuses to put him in the rotation, but if he doesn’t start this year he simply is never going to start in a Reds uniform.

  4. TR

    I agree with your post. The illusion that the Reds might compete this season for a playoff spot has derailed the rebuild with the result being the mishandling of Reed and Stevenson. Both, and other young pitchers, should be getting experience and taking their lumps at the ML level. Inserting Arroyo into the starting rotation only delays the building of a winning Reds team that will be able to compete.

  5. james garrett

    Price’s comments are just plain dumb.We don’t want to take the time to develop Robert and Cody but we constantly send out guys that might not make it past the 4th inning.Lets stop trying to develop Bronson,Bonilla and Wojo into major league starters and go with Stephensen,Reed and Lorenzen to see if we can get more out of these guys starting.We may give ourselves a better chance and shorten the game.Nobody in their right mind would even hint that we are in the play off hunt to begin with.

  6. citizen54

    I was just as disappointed as you were when I read that statement from Price a couple of days ago. It’s just funny how Price has deluded himself into thinking the Reds can make the playoffs when Arroyo is part of your rotation. I can’t really fault Price though. He is managing for his job. The front office should have either fired him or given him an extension at the beginning of the year. Having the manager have one year left on his contract is bad if you are trying to rebuild.

    As it is this this year is playing out like my worst case scenario. Reed and Stephenson don’t develop and the Reds hover around .500.. It could get even worse if the Reds try to trade some of their promising young talent for a veteran they think can put them over the top.

  7. bmblue

    Last year at this time Cody Reed and Stephenson were top 5 prospects in the organization. Nice job by the Reds. 🙁

    • Chuck Schick

      How have every other organizations top 5 prospects done since last year? Have the Reds done better-worse-average? I would prefer that Reed and Stephenson be better as well, but your statement lacked context

      • Da Bear

        Have you taken any notice with how Price has managed either? Reed he got going okay in the bullpen but then you start him against the Cubs of all teams? Stephenson has been totally mishandled. Far better to give him a few starts like last year (didn’t he win a couple games with less than stellar starts in 2016 but who needs stellar starts when giving up 3 or 4 runs in 5 or 6 innings is halfway manageable for this offense) than to sit him for 10 games but for one appearance, then throw him to the red hot Toronto Blue Jays to beat up when they were rolling. Doesn’t matter how badly other organizations managed their prospects you don’t follow bad practices you follow good ones and if they fail so be it. Put them in a position to succeed, not to fail.

  8. james garrett

    You would think that in keeping Price that JOB 1 was to develop the young pitchers on this team.I mean that’s what he is good at right?He brings nothing else to the table that would say he should be the one to manage this team going forward.In fact we have debated on here several times just how much a manager means in wins and losses to begin with so now he says we are in the play off hunt.So we stop developing pitchers because we can’t afford for them to take their lumps and risk our chance at not making it.I mean we watch almost daily one of starters getting hammered and feel lucky if we get to the middle innings with a chance.We have the worst starting staff based on data in the majors and we think we are going to the play offs.Where is Jim Mora? He knows a little about the play offs.

  9. james garrett

    If Wiliams is backing Price I am stunned.Kick him to the curb and gives these young guys 12 -15 starts a piece for the rest of the year.JIM WALKER made an excellent point about Finnegan’s performance the first half of last year.He went on to make 31 starts and got much better just like Disco the year before when he started 31 times.

  10. ethan hunt

    The Reds have 5 pitchers on the 60 day DL. Bailey, Disco, Finnegan, Travieso, and Ogando. Who do the Reds DFA, demote, or bury in the center field upon their return we are talking 5 pitchers folks. The Reds are going to lose some players over this.
    Arroyo will be gone. Bonila will be gone. Wojo will have to clear waivers to make room on the roster…. gone Buchanon sure he is expendable….. let’s say he goes as well. One more player is going to be bumped off the map.
    Ok so now let’s speculate. Many are demanding we go with youth right this instant. Are we seriously going to burn options on our youth just for a few weeks of place holding for the 5 pitchers returning? Do we really want to do that in a season that we know we are not going to win in? It isn’t worth the risk.

  11. Sammy Davis Junior

    5 pitchers on the 60 day DL more than likely 4 of them to the 25 but all of them will be going to the 40 man. So why would the Reds burn options up on replacement players even if they are our studs of tomorrow in a season we have 0 chance of winning in? Better to wait until we clear out our 60 day DL before we make any sudden moves of rash roster moves.

  12. Chuck Schick

    Going into the season, I believe the FO and Price looked at the first half of the year and saw a lost cause. Tough division and games against the AL East, while missing 3 of their 5 best pitchers.

    So you construct a 40 man that has some guys that may be flipped ( Feldman/Storen) and some that will ultimately be DFA (Arroyo/Bonilla) in order to have as much flexibility as possible in the 2nd half and to save innings for the real pitchers. Your anticipation is that you’re going to be 25 games behind the Cubs on June 1 so no one cares that Blake Wood is pitching in close games. You’re trying to lose as many as possible in the first half because once the cavalry arrives in July you’ll likely play at least .500 ball. You want to finish the year with momentum and the pieces in place for next year ….but you also want to suck enough early on to draft top 10….maybe even top 5.

    It all seems like a great plan but then your tough division sucks and your offense scores 8 runs a game and now it’s May and you’re actually good enough to at least hang around. If you’re in it in July, you’re fans may want you to be buyers….and you know that you’ll likely be better in the 2nd half, but you also know you’re really not good enough to actually win over the course of 162. You’re in baseball purgatory…..not bad enough to be bad, but not really good enough to realistically compete. You’re the Miley Era Reds

    So you have your manager who has 3 months left on his contract talk about ” the post season” while he uses Blake Wood in high inspact situations. You sound like you’re trying but your actions indicate you want to be out of it before the Trade deadline

    • Chuck Schick

      I don’t necessarily believe they thought everything through particularly well. I tend to believe there are ” reasons” for the things they do that aren’t easily understood. That doesn’t mean it’s smart,; it just means there are reasons beyond Price is dumb.

      I think they want to finish the last 60-80 games strong and would much rather win 68 than 78. Everything else is a complete crap shoot

  13. james garrett

    CHUCK I would just love to believe everything you said but I agree with others in that you are giving way to much credit to the front office.I do believe they want to be out of it by the trade deadline based on some of the decisions that have been made.I also believe they are saying they are trying but again the decisions made don’t say they are indeed doing it.Fans want to win but the reality is we won’t because the Cubs are so much better even if we had all of our injured guys from day one.This was the year to find out who could and who couldn’t and so far we have done nothing to find out.The front office should be excited about how well we hit defend and the performance of the pen.All they have to do is find out who can pitch and some guys haven’t even been given a chance.Then next year you go for it.When the injured return we will be better but what if Homer never returns and Disco has to the Tommy John thing then we wasted some develop time for 3 young power arms.

  14. docmike


    We have a winner for column of the year!

    Excellent work, Tom. This column would’ve made me laugh, if it wasn’t so close to the truth

  15. bouwills

    Tom, you’re column is very persuasive, well done, but a side bar. The real story in the 2017 Reds organization is how much new talent has been added by Williams. Every single poster has adamant feelings about the Reds starting pitching & starting pitching prospects, because the rotation is the only weakness on the Reds current roster. I’m not sure that Gennett, Kivlehan, even Alcantata are AAAA players- but last years bench players surely were. At AA there’s Goeddel, Guererro, & Van Meter. What’s wrong with picking up Austin Ross or Deke McGuire? After this years( & I believe successful) draft, some of the minor league teams will become younger & as talented. But some of those AAAA players will make a ML mark with the Reds- mark my words.