My latest column for Cincinnati Magazine is now online, in which I tried to make the case for giving Robert Stephenson another chance in the near future:
A couple of weeks ago, right here in the digital pages ofÃ‚Â Cincinnati Magazine, I suggested that the Cincinnati Reds tryÃ‚Â sending Homer Bailey to the bullpen. This week,Ã‚Â they actually took my advice, so letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hope theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re still paying attention. I have another idea.
Once upon a time, Robert Stephenson was the Next Big Thing for the Reds. CaliforniaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s high school Player of the Year in 2011Ã¢â‚¬â€he threw back-to-back no-hitters at the beginning of his senior seasonÃ¢â‚¬â€Stephenson was selected by the Reds in the first round, and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been among the clubÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top prospects ever since. For four consecutive seasons beginning in 2013, he was a consensus top-100 prospect in all of baseball, with every major outlet ranking him among the top 20 youngsters in all of baseball at one point or another.
In other words, Stephenson was the very definition of a highly-touted young pitcher. During the second half of last season, he appeared to be on the verge of delivering on all that promise. He went 5-2 with a dazzling 2.50 ERA in the final two months, holding opposing hitters to a .205 batting average in the process.
And then Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ nothing. Stephenson pitched poorly this spring (7.71 ERA) and was sent to Triple-A Louisville, never to be heard from again.
Check it out and let me know what you think. I think it’s time to see what he’s got, though I acknowledge that Cincinnati management likely has very good reasons for keeping Stephenson at Triple-A for the time being (possibly even some non-performance-related reasons).
Still…what do the Reds have to lose by giving him another chance?