Daytona Holds off Rally

Jackson Stephens is working on adding his name to lists of top Cincinnati pitching prospects. The 22 year-old right-hander is coming off two impressive outings which has brought he ERA under four at Daytona.

Daytona took a 4-0 lead and stopped a ninth inning rally short to win 4-2 at Clearwater Sunday. The Tortugas got on the board in the second inning when Jeff Gelalich singled, stole second, and scored on a hit by Joe Hudson. They extended that lead in the sixth when Alex Blandino and Sebastian Elizalde led off with singles before a pitch hit Chad Wallach to load the bases. They were then cleared by a wild pitch, another hit by Hudson, and a sac fly from Carlton Daal. The victory allowed the Tortugos to maintain their division lead.

Blandino led his team with three hits and also reached with a base on balls. Gelalich and Hudson had two hits apiece with Gelalich also drawing a walk. On the mound Jackson Stephens got the win for a scoreless outing in which he worked into the eighth inning, limiting the Threshers to six hits/one walk. El’Hajj Muhammad entered in time to get the final out for his first save.

Jackson has been in the Cincinnati system since they selected him out of Oxford (AL) High School in the 18th round in 2012. He’s since been a bit of a periphery player, included in some top Cincinnati prospect lists while being watched by others as someone with potential to enter in the future. The way he’s pitching now that future might not be far away because he’s allowed only two runs while combining for fourteen innings over his last two starts to bring his ERA down to 3.62. His 26 strikeouts are double the number of walks issued and Sunday was his third win of the season.

Before now most of the attention on him was based on potential while he posted somewhat pedestrian ernies, all above 4.50, in each of his first three professional seasons. He did start out last year recovering from a surgery on his elbow before returning for a second season at Dayton. Now less than one week after his 21st birthday he’s pitching against older competition in the Florida State League and rewarding Cincinnati for their decision to advance him.

Much of that potential is an impressive fastball to which he’s added a few ticks and can now run up into the mid-90’s. He also throws a curve and slider that both have potential to be above average pitches and is also working on a changeup. The right-hander throws those out of a 6’3”/205# frame and projects as an end of the rotation pitcher at the MLB level.

Right now he’s starting to prove he can log some significant innings in a season after throwing less than 70 in all of his previous season. He debuted as an eighteen year old in the Arizona League and was held out of action until June the next season when he was thrown into action in the Midwest League where he pitched in tandem with Amir Garrett. The earlier mentioned injury delayed his action last year, but now Cincinnati is letting him go deeper into games and he’s tossed 37 innings in seven starts in 2015.

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