Stephenson Awaits Pro Debut

The Reds first selection in the 2011 draft was much later than normal years. They must have been excited to see that right handed pitcher Robert Stephenson was still available when they finally got a turn. The first high school pitcher to be selected by Cincinnati in the first round since 2004 is now in extended spring training.

The first postseason appearance in fifteen years by the Reds in 2010 changed their normal draft position in 2011. After years of getting earlier selections the Reds did not get their first pick until the 27th player chosen in the first round. Most prospect rating services feel that they were fortunate to find Robert Stephenson still waiting when they finally got a turn. He was the first high school pitcher taken by the Reds in the first round since Homer Bailey in 2004.

Stephenson is a 6'2", 190# right hander out of Alhambra H.S. in Martinez, CA. Last year he kicked off his senior season by tossing two no-hitters before being named a Rawlings High School All American. Against California high school competition he put up stats expected of a future first rounder including a sub-1 WHIP and almost two strikeouts per inning. Before his first game as a professional he's already the consensus top pitching prospect in the Cincinnati system.

An abundance of pitchers among the top rated draft prospects made Stephenson available. Sixteen of the 26 players selected before him were pitchers and ten of them had college experience on their resume. The 19 year-old signed a contract just before the deadline and is now in extended spring training. The Reds likely have plans to start him off in the rookie leagues when they begin their season in June.

When he finally takes the mound he will bring a low/mid 90's fastball from high school that ran up to high 90's on occasion. There is reason to expect the youngster can add a few more mph which would give him the velocity of a top-rotation major leaguer. He also throws a curveball and changeup and is working on a slider. His assignment, like many other young pitchers is to improve command as he goes through development. With such raw talent, instructors will also be looking for way to refine his delivery to improve durability.

A couple of the other recent first round picks were blocked in the Reds organization by others playing the same position. That won't be the case with Stephenson because a spot can always be found for a MLB-ready pitcher. It was a starting pitcher that was returned in the Alonso-Grandal trade. For right now Reds development personnel is anxious to see him embark on his professional career in either in the Arizona and/or Pioneer leagues.

Other news from the farm:

Louisville held onto their spot in the bottom of the International League west division with a 5-1 loss at Indianapolis. Bret Tomko took his third loss despite turning in a quality start. He struck out 8 in six innings. Daniel Dorn and Mike Costanzo both had two hits for the Bats.

Pensacola tied their game in the ninth at Jacksonville before losing 6-5 in the bottom of the inning. Pedro Villarrael allowed five runs before he left for a pinch hitter in the sixth. Donnie Joseph turned in his ninth scoreless appearance to start the season before Donnie Freeman gave up the game winner. Wilkin De La Rosa was recently promoted from Bakersfield and he made his first appearance with the Wahoos a scoreless one while dropping his overall season ERA below one. Ryan LaMarre and Brian Peacock had a pair of hits each.

Bakersfield's attempt to win their tenth straight was postponed. The Blaze will go for the sweep at Stockton tonight.

Dayton gave up a walk-off home run to lose 4-3 at Wisconsin. Starter Stalin Gerson allowed three runs (two earned) in five innings and Jimmy Moran served the game-winning shot for his second loss. Theo Bowe, Steve Selsky, and Brandon Dailey had two hits each for the Dragons. Dailey is now batting .320.

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