My latest column for Cincinnati Magazine is now online, in which I tried to make the case for giving Robert Stephenson another chance in the near future:

A couple of weeks ago, right here in the digital pages of Cincinnati Magazine, I suggested that the Cincinnati Reds try sending Homer Bailey to the bullpen. This week, they actually took my advice, so let’s hope they’re still paying attention. I have another idea.

Once upon a time, Robert Stephenson was the Next Big Thing for the Reds. California’s high school Player of the Year in 2011—he threw back-to-back no-hitters at the beginning of his senior season—Stephenson was selected by the Reds in the first round, and he’s been among the club’s top prospects ever since. For four consecutive seasons beginning in 2013, he was a consensus top-100 prospect in all of baseball, with every major outlet ranking him among the top 20 youngsters in all of baseball at one point or another.

In other words, Stephenson was the very definition of a highly-touted young pitcher. During the second half of last season, he appeared to be on the verge of delivering on all that promise. He went 5-2 with a dazzling 2.50 ERA in the final two months, holding opposing hitters to a .205 batting average in the process.

And then … nothing. Stephenson pitched poorly this spring (7.71 ERA) and was sent to Triple-A Louisville, never to be heard from again.

Check it out and let me know what you think. I think it’s time to see what he’s got, though I acknowledge that Cincinnati management likely has very good reasons for keeping Stephenson at Triple-A for the time being (possibly even some non-performance-related reasons).

Still…what do the Reds have to lose by giving him another chance?

17 Responses

  1. AJ

    Would like to see him get another chance as well. I’d like to see Romano get a break and regroup in triple a or the bullpen to keep innings from catching up to him and see if Stephenson can perform with new folks in the dugout.

  2. cfd3000

    If Bailey and Romano and Mahle and Finnegan had all pitched well, then Stephenson should languish in Louisville. But they have not. I get why Matt Harvey got slotted in for Finnegan. And I get that Anthony DeSclafani should take Bailey’s spot. Mahle has just barely shown enough to continue to get the ball every fifth day, but Romano has not. If the Reds are at all serious about this rebuild they have to be both patient and fearless. Pitchers don’t succeed on hope. Romano hasn’t shown much at all in two months of starts. Time for some fearless. Sal to AAA to see if he can show he deserves another shot. Robert to Cincinnati to see if he can, finally, show that he belongs. I don’t know how that swap will turn out, but I do know that it’s time to find out. Put me down as Agree, Chad.

  3. Keith

    He walked 4 people today in 6 innings. Reds may not have much to lose, but I think he needs to demonstrate consistent command before coming back up. What’s the point in bringing him up, only to continue to walk people, and then sending him back down? Jerking him around until he fixes his control doesn’t seem fair to him.

  4. mawnlower

    I’m not sure how I feel about Stephenson, he’s got great stuff, but he really needs to get his control down. Mahle is supposed to be a control artist yet he still has walked 5 batters in a game, and this is a huge problem, so Stephenson has to nail his control because that could be his downfall, and has been so far.

  5. What_do_I_know

    A bunch of games. That’s what they have to lose. Why can’t we have nice things? Why do we have to settle for hitters that can’t hit and pitchers that can’t pitch strikes?

  6. wizeman

    He allows very few hits. 7 baserunners in 6 innings… and at least 4 of them are singles as they are walks. wish the others would do so well night after night.
    know it is not analytically sound but seems to me all, of our starters walk a lot of guys and run high pitch counts.
    isn’t there an issue with service time for mahle? doesn’t he need to go down to stop his clock?

  7. Mike Adams

    Chad or RLN bloggers, what do you think is the reason for Stephenson’s control issues?
    Wasn’t there some rumors or reports of attitude or not listening to coaches at AAA or the Reds?
    Is his control problem a physical thing that may never be corrected, or is it something that he just won’t fix when offered suggestions?
    Opinions anyone?

    • David

      I think control by pitchers is both a physical and psychological (mental) problem, at this level of baseball.
      Young pitchers especially don’t always trust their stuff when they first reach the Majors, and try to be too fine with control, and ML umpires do not give them the benefit of the doubt, until they actually prove they can locate and hit the corners of the zone. Hence, a lot of BB’s.
      Physically, I think this is also a matter of mechanics and strength. As pitchers tire (fatigue) during a game, their mechanics sometimes degrade and they don’t make the same, repeatable motion to deliver a pitch.
      Time and experience will help them, as they become more aware of just what they should be doing mechanically, when pitching. Bob Stephenson is fairly tall, and sometimes tall guys have more problems with mechanics, because of their taller physique, longer legs and arms. More chance to make a physical error in pitching.

  8. Jeff Reed

    The Reds have brought up too many young pitchers over the past few years who cannot consistently get the ball in the strike zone, putting too much emphasis on pitching speed. Even more than the occasional long ball, walks are a pitcher’s negative especially when they walk the first hitter in the inning. Stephenson should no longer be on the L’ville-Cincy shuttle. When he can get the ball in the strike zone consistently in AAA, then he should be brought up. This fact should be made clear to all young pitchers, including Finnegan. If the Red’s organization cannot develop pitchers who have control, then they should trade for or spend money for pitchers who can. Without a starting pitching staff who can get the ball over the strike zone, the Reds are going nowhere.

  9. wizeman

    trout or ohtani
    as long as you are asking

  10. james garrett

    Been saying all along that Bob should be up here and pitching.Got great stuff with a wipe out slider.He has been punished from the get go because he wouldn’t do what he was told.Batlle of wills and he lost because of his walks.Every young guy walks people period.Just let him pitch for goodness sakes.What he did at the end of last year should have been good enough and lets be honest most starters in the big leagues may give you 5 or 6 innings at most.Only the elite guys give you any more then that but they cost 20 mil or more.

  11. SultanofSwaff

    The closest comp from my memory is David Cone. Cone never got his walk rate below 5 per 9IP until he was 25. His strikeout rate never was as high as BobSteve’s. The history books are chock full of pitchers who blossom later. It would be a shortsighted travesty to trade him.

    Also, it’s important that the pitch calling in Cincy emphasizes his strengths, which is pitching backwards. Price’s ‘establish the fastball’ mantra not only did a disservice to many of our young pitchers, it’s statistically unsound in today’s swing for the fences game. The inability to locate a fastball consistently is no more a sin than the inability to locate an offspeed pitch, but the Reds for too long have insisted on a one size fits all approach.

  12. jay johnson

    I think he proved he can be the guy during the back half of last season.What would he had to have done to gain your approval?
    His numbers speak for themselves.

  13. james garrett

    No young pitcher is going to come up and dominate regardless.Young guys need to pitch period.I have said it before and will say it again that 5 or 6 innings is all any starting pitcher throws any more.Pitch count gets them or the third time through the order gets them or a pinch hitter is used for them.Elite starters in the majors may go 7 sometimes or even 8 but they are proven veteran guys with 150 or more starts and 5 or more years in the big leagues.All of these guys except a handful struggled early and often in the first couple of years.Bob has 19 starts in the big leagues strung out over 3 years and none this year.Just let him pitch or trade him for a prospect.The Reds won’t do that of course just like they won’t trade any of these other young guys because only one of them(Castillo) has over 25 starts in the majors.They know it takes time but for some reason they don’t have any patience at all with these guys.

  14. Eddiek957

    I remember Robert pulled the other teams in like four straight games ace and pitched well. Amir and Robert should have been in the rotation from the get go. I said that in spring training. I also said homer needed to pitch out of the pen to begin the season. I don’t know I’m generally optimistic but the mismanagement of the roster has been horrendous I’m losing hope

  15. bouwills

    Here’s a thought. Maybe the Reds haven’t squandered the talents of DeSclafani, Stephenson, Finnegan, Garrett, or Reed (yet). Perhaps they’re just not ready. Maybe the Reds are doing their best to make sure they’re healthy (AD, BF, & AG) as well as prepared (RS & CR). If Bailey had remained healthy, plus had Iglesias & Lorenzen been able to pitch in the rotation instead of out of the bullpen, then all of this would be a lot less crucial. Building a good young rotation, basically from scratch, may be one of the most difficult things to accomplish in pro sports. Patience- plus no more Gallardos, Arroyos, Simons, Marquis, …………….Harveys?