Saturday, July 20, 2013

Former first rounder Robert Stephenson shoots up top prospects list

The undisputed top pitching prospect in the Reds system continues to be 2011 first round pick Robert Stephenson.

The California native recently received a promotion to Advanced Single-A Bakersfield after going 5-3 with a 2.57 ERA in 14 starts with Single-A Dayton. The right-hander is starting to get many fans in Reds Country buzzing with excitement about his potential arrival in the big leagues.

One expert who is apparently impressed with Stephenson's development is ESPN Insider and prospect guru Keith Law. Law published an updated list of who he believed to be the top 50 prospects in baseball at the moment and Stephenson came in at No. 26. That position is up 22 spots from his preseason ranking of 48.

Here is what Mr. Law had to say about Stephenson:

26. Robert Stephenson, RHP | Cincinnati Reds (age 20)
Current level: Low Class A (Dayton)
Preseason ranking: 48

Stephenson has torn apart Midwest League hitters with just two pitches, a plus-plus fastball and plus-plus breaking ball, and may need to move up a level just to force him to work on his changeup and to continue to refine his fastball command.

He's had no trouble with lefties and has gone eight straight starts where he's walked two batters or fewer. I understand caution with a young pitcher, but Stephenson has ace potential and should be pushed a little to help him achieve it.

Stephenson's maturation has to have folks within the Reds front office grinning from ear-to-ear. The Reds already boast a formidable starting rotation in the likes of Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, and Tony Cingrani. But the possible addition of Stephenson in two to three years is definitely something to write home about. Especially when you consider the fact that another top right-handed pitching prospect, 2012 first rounder Nick Travieso, also lays in the arsenal of Cincinnati's farm system.

One disappointing note about these rankings, though, is the absence of switch-hitting speedster Billy Hamilton. Hamilton has fallen in most prospect rankings due to his offensive struggles in Triple-A this season. In fact, Law had him tabbed as the No. 30 best prospect in his preseason rankings. But Hamilton is nowhere to be found in the top 50 or honorable mentions at this point anymore.

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