The Cincinnati Reds currently stand at 54-54. Cincinnati decided not to make any major moves at the trade deadline. With the passing of the deadline, let's shift the focus back internally and look at which prospect can help the Reds in 2015.
While the Reds do not have a plethora of MLB-ready players in the minors, Cincinnati's top prospect can make an impact next season. Robert Stephenson projects to be the ace of the rotation one day and should have his first shot in the big leagues next season. Be sure to check out his draft-day profile piece below.
Excluding Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto, every pitcher in the Reds rotation is arbitration eligible before the 2015 season. Keeping Alfredo Simon, Mike Leake and Mat Latos could be very expensive. They will almost certainly exercise their team option on Cueto. However, it would not be a surprise to see one of the other three pitchers go.
This would leave an open spot in the rotation. The organization's top prospect would be the perfect player to take this spot.
Cincinnati selected Stephenson with the 27th pick of the 2011 first-year player draft out of Alhambra High School in Martinez, California, and he will likely make his debut in 2015.
He got his first taste of facing big league hitters this season during spring training. Check out his warm-up below.
According to MLB.com, Robert Stephenson's fastball and curveball both earned 70s on the future tools rating scale.
On that scale, anything above 70 is considered to be well above average. This one-two punch figures to carry over nicely to the next level. His fastball falls in the mid- to high-90s and can reach triple digits.
According to an interview with Sam Dykstra of MiLB.com, here is what Stephenson had to say before the season about being ready for the majors.
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.
There is no doubting his stuff is major league-ready, it will just be a matter of controlling it.
Stephenson was cruising through the minors. While pitching in three different levels in 2013, he posted a combined ERA of 2.99 with a WHIP of 1.11.
However, he has run into some rough spots this season. His ERA sits at 4.19, but hitters have hit just .219 off of him. Walks have been his biggest problem this season. The 21-year-old pitcher has allowed 60 free passes in 107.1 innings of work.
According to an interview with Sam Dykstra of MiLB.com, Stephenson knows he needs to work on his control this season:
Definitely the big thing is work on hitting my spots. I was falling behind hitters a lot, so a big focal point is getting ahead of them and giving myself that advantage. The hitters are more consistent there and they'll make you pay if you're [not] hitting it where you should be right away.
The 21-year-old prospect will have the rest of the season to work on his control. There is no rush to get him to the major leagues this season, as the Reds have plenty of quality starters and hope to be in the hunt for October.
As long as Stephenson can get his stuff under control, he has a good chance to make the 2015 Opening Day roster and make an impact right away.
**All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com unless noted otherwise.