Thursday, July 17, 2014

Robert Stephenson named among top 50 prospects in baseball


If you haven't heard Robert Stephenson's name by now, as a Reds fan, you should probably get yourself acquainted with the 2011 first round draft pick.

The 21-year-old right-hander out of California is widely regarded as the top prospect in Cincinnati's farm system. With a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s and an ideal frame for a starting pitcher (6-foot-3, 200-pounds), it's easy to see why. It's also not a surprise to learn that he was among the Top 50 Prospects in a midseason list recently published by ESPN.com's Keith Law.

Here is what the self-professed scouting guru had to say about Stephenson (who checked in modestly at No. 36 on the list):

The Reds' top pitching prospect has had his problems with command and control this year, which isn't critical for a 21-year-old already pitching in Double-A. Still, the troubles probably push back his MLB debut date by at least a half-season. Stephenson will pitch with a plus fastball and curveball, but there's some violence in his delivery that may be behind his command/control problems in 2014 -- although he had the same delivery last year and threw a lot more strikes. He'll need to develop his changeup and improve or restore his command to get back to that No. 1 starter ceiling.

It was somewhat of a surprise (to me at least) not to see outfield prospect Jesse Winker, who is considered Cincinnati's second-best youngster, among the top 50. Winker has been absolutely crushing minor league pitching this season and is undoubtedly the most promising hitter the Reds have in their pipeline.

On a side note, if this list is any indication of future success, the Cubs are going to be in good shape after this year. Chicago boasts three of the top eight prospects on the list and four in the top 30. It's very likely that the Cubs will somehow manage to screw things up despite their loaded farm system. But perhaps we should be a little careful about how much we kick them while their down right now. 

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