Cincinnati Reds fans will have plenty to root for during this season's All-Star break. The Reds are well represented with four All-Star selections and even have Todd Frazier to cheer for in the Home Run Derby.
Before all the MLB excitement kicks off, the Reds also have two participants in the All-Star Futures Game.
The annual All-Star Futures Game kicks off the July 13 All-Star festivities at 5 p.m. ET. This game brings in the game's top prospects in a battle of the U.S. Team against the World Team.
Top prospects Robert Stephenson and Jesse Winkler were given the honor of representing Team USA this year. Here is what these great prospects bring to the table.
Stephenson's inclusion in the game comes as no surprise. Major League Baseball could have penciled in his name before the season began.
According to Baseball America, Stephenson entered this season ranked as the Reds' top prospect and 19th-best prospect overall.
His one-two punch is made up of an electric mid- to upper 90s fastball, which he complements nicely with an above-average curveball. The 21-year-old pitcher will also mix in a changeup occasionally, but relies mostly on the curve and fastball.
He has nasty stuff, as displayed by his ability to strike out batters. Stephenson has averaged over a strikeout an inning throughout his minor league career. (Check out his stuff above.)
Stephenson has not been as dominant this season, as he has struggled with his control—allowing 48 walks in 93 innings.
With the Reds' crowded rotation, there is no need to push him into the majors this year. He will likely be battling for a spot in the rotation during spring training next year and should just focus on controlling his pitches this season.
According to an interview with MiLB.com's Sam Dykstra, here is how far away from the majors Stephenson thought he was before the season:
Obviously, I don't expect to be break(ing) camp with the big club. That being said, I think they want me to be ready at some point this season in case I am moved up. I want to be ready at every turn, so I'm prepared when I do get that call.
Once Stephenson is able to fully command his pitches, he is projected to be a top-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues.
Winker was not even listed on Baseball America's prospect list entering this season. However, he has been the best hitting prospect in the Reds organization and has already been promoted this year.
The 20-year-old outfielder has played his way onto Baseball America's midseason Top 50 prospect rankings. He currently sits at No. 29, not bad for someone who was not even mentioned coming into the season.
Winker was looked at as a line-drive hitter before the season, but his power numbers have really taken off this season. He has hit 15 home runs and also has 20 doubles this year.
The lefty possesses a nice compact swing and has displayed great patience at the plate (You can check out his swing above.) Unlike a lot of other young hitters, Winker rarely chases bad pitches and will take his walks. It looks like he has the Joey Votto mindset in that sense.
According to an interview with RedsMinorLeagues.com's Doug Gray, here is what Winker had to say about his approach:
I just try to hunt pitches and hunt the pitch I want to hit in every at bat. If the pitcher is not going to give that to me I try not to cave in and give away at bats, I think that is what ties into my patience. I don’t try to give away one at bat all year. It is a goal I have every year. With that and having a good eye and the umpire obviously being solid as well plays into a patient hitter’s game plan.
**All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise