In the 2011 MLB draft, the Cincinnati Reds selected Robert Stephenson of Alhambra High School with the 27th overall pick. The Reds were lucky to get the California native in such a high position. Last year's amateur draft was loaded with first-rounders who had spent time in college, so he was able to drop right into Cincy's lap.
Stephenson's deal was inked just before the rookie contracts deadline and he will begin his journey through the Reds minor league system in 2012.
When drafting high school players it can be tough to tell what you're going to get, so before Stephenson even throws a ball as a professional, let's take a look at what Stephen offers.
Stephenson is 18 years old and measures 6'3",180 pounds so there's some filling out to be done. Even at just 180 pounds, Stephenson's fastball sits in the 93-95 range and he can run it up to 98 mph on occasion. Imagine what Stephenson will do by the time he adds about 20 pounds to that 6'3" frame. He can easily add a mph or two to that fastball range, which would put him solidly in the mid-upper 90s.
If you watch video of Stephenson, you can see that his motion and arm angle could prove to be a concern regarding injury in the future, but nothing so severe that pitching coaches will struggle to fix. This is something they'll need to do if they're going to stave off any future injuries to this top-tier prospect.
Stephenson obviously has a plus fastball for an 18-year-old prospect, but it's his other three pitches that helped propel him into the first round. Stephenson's repertoire includes a sharp-breaking 12-6 curveball, a good changeup which he can throw down in the zone and a developing slider.
Just to give you a taste of what this kid is capable of, take a look at the stats Stephenson posted in his first 61 innings of his senior season. In those 61 innings, Stephenson went 6-2 with a 1.26 ERA, 0.72 WHIP with 27 hits, 17 walks and 119 strikeouts. That's nearly two an inning. No matter what level you're at, that's impressive, especially in a state like California where he's facing top-level competition.
Oh, and just a side note: Stephenson started that senior season with back to back no-hitters, was a Rawlings High School All-American, all-state performer and invitee to both the Perfect Game National Showcase and Aflac All-American Classic.
Stephenson's already surprisingly well polished for an 18-year-old. It's hard to project the development of an 18-year-old, but with four or five seasons in the minor leagues, there's no reason to think that he can't develop into a front of the rotation guy.
As the old saying goes, you can never have enough pitching.