Stephenson Starting Strong in AA

Stephenson at AA as 20 Year-Old

Though there is no need to fast-track 2011 top pick Robert Stephenson to the big leagues, he's fast-tracking himself. He's pitching at his third level this season and is at AA in his second professional season.

Pensacola tied their game at Huntsville with a run in the sixth inning, but fell behind in the seventh in a 2-1 loss. Robert Stephenson had another strong outing, allowing only one unearned run as he navigated around five hits/three walks in five innings while striking out eight. Loek Van Mil relieved him with two innings over which he allowed one run which cost him the loss before Lee Hyde tossed a scoreless eighth.

Offensively the Wahoos combined for seven hits and their only run came when Ryan LaMarre tripled and scored on a single by Mike Costanzo, who also walked in the game. Tucker Barnhart also reached safely twice with a hit and a walk.

This is the third team for which Stephenson has pitched this season after staying at Bakersfield for only four starts. After two outings for Pensacola he now has a 1.65 ERA over eleven innings. Prior to that he was at 3.05 in 20 high-A innings and he put up a 2.57 at Dayton where he's spent most of his season.

The Reds are blessed with rotational depth and there's really no need to fast-track their top draft selection of 2011, but it appears he's fast-tracking himself. Overall he's at 2.57 with a K/BB ratio of 131/28 over 108 innings pitched. He's also been effective at keeping the ball down, with a ground/air out ratio of 1.17.

Though his stay at high-A was brief, he's showing no need to return there to start 2014. He'll be 21 years old before opening day next year and appears ready to show if he can continue his success at the AA level. The Reds have shown no reluctance to advance him since he debuted professionally last year and he could be knocking on the door for a call to go to the highest level by the end of next year.

Stephenson came into this season one of the top-rated pitching prospects in the Cincinnati organization and a consensus top-100 prospect in all of baseball. He's certainly done nothing to hurt that rating and after the learning curves that Billy Hamilton and Daniel Corcino have gone through at Louisville and Tony Cingrani's promotion to the Reds he's making a strong case for the top spot on the Reds list.

For whatever it's worth, anyways. Any prospect would probably trade the top spot on a list for any spot on the parent team's active roster. Given Stephenson's track record he's likely to make good on it whenever the opportunity comes and now it's appearing like that will be sooner instead of later.

After a level of success in 2010 that was more than the franchise had experienced over the previous fifteen years they were lucky to find Stephenson still waiting when they used the 27th overall pick in the next year's draft. He was coming off a season in which he was named the top high school player in California, but unusual pitching depth in the draft caused him to slide down toward the end of the first round. Six of the pitchers selected ahead of him have already debuted at the MLB level during his rapid ascent up the ladder. The Reds are now vying for their third division championship in the last three seasons and are enjoying strong pitching that is atypical of the franchise historically. It appears it won't be long before Stephenson is ready to sustain that as the team establishes a new reputation on the mound.

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The Reds kept pace with the division leaders by finishing their home series against Arizona with a 2-1 win. Mat Latos was strong on the mound again, allowing only one run on five hits in eight innings while striking out six without a walk for the win. Aroldis Chapman was given a day off after tossing two innings on Wednesday so Sam LeCure dodged around a couple of hits while throwing a scoreless ninth for the save. Shin-soo Choo had two of the Reds' five hits and scored both of their runs, one on a groundout to give Brandon Phillips his 94th RBI and the game-winner on a wild pitch. Joey Votto reached safely three times with a hit and two walks.

Louisville opened their home series against Toledo with a 5-2 win. Billy Hamilton had two hits and scored twice. Mike Hessman also had two hits including a solo homer that plated the go-ahead run in the fifth. Neftali Soto and Henry Rodriguez also finished the game with two hits each. Daniel Corcino again had control issues which limited his start to less than four innings over which he only gave up one run, but allowed four hits and five walks. Zach Duke relieved him with two scoreless frames for the win. Pedro Villarreal pitched two shutout innings without a hit while striking out three.

Bakersfield eked out a 2-1 win at Inland Empire. Juan Silva had a couple of hits and an RBI. Jake Johnson allowed only one run on five hits/three walks but was lifted in the fifth inning. Kyle McMyne relieved him with two-plus scoreless innings for the win before Pat Doyle tossed a two scoreless innings for the save.

Dayton rallied for five runs in the fourth inning and held on for a 5-3 win at Lake County. Beau Amaral's grand slam was the big hit of the night and Jon Matthews also plated a run with a double. Seth Mejias-Brean and Daniel Piggott finished with two hits each for the Dragons. Drew Cisco got the win for allowing two runs on five hits in six innings that included six strikeouts without a walk. Alejandro Chacin entered in the eighth and finished the game with a scoreless outing for the save.

Billings allowed runs early and often in their 10-2 loss to visiting Idaho Falls. J.R. Reynolds had two of five Mustang hits. Starter Zach Weiss took the loss for allowing four runs in three innings pitched.

The AZL Reds took the lead with a run in the twelfth, but lost 3-2 when they allowed two in the bottom of the inning. Dalton Carter led the way offensively with two hits including a homer that tied the score in the ninth. Kevin Franklin also had two hits and Kevin Garcia reached safely three times from a hit and two walks. Manny Aybar started the game with four no-hit innings, but he walked five before leaving without allowing a run. Juan Martinez tossed three-plus scoreless frames of relief. Wagner Gomez allowed a homer for the loss.

The DSL Reds swept a doubleheader as they completed an earlier suspended game. They blew open the first game with a four-run seventh inning for an 8-2 win. Six Reds each had two of their fifteen hits. Luis Gonzalez got the win for tossing four scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out three without a walk.

In the second game the Reds scored two runs in the twelfth inning in a 3-1 win. Geraldo Valor reached three times with two hits and a walk and Michael Beltre also contributed two hits. Raynar Guerrero plated the game-winning runs with a single. Jacob Constante allowed one unearned runs in the first two innings. The Reds bullpen was up to the task with three relievers combining for ten scoreless innings including Jairo Martinez who finished with four scoreless frames for the win.

The DSL Rojos were blown out 12-2 by the DSL Pirates2. Anthony Rubicondo had two hits in the contest. Wendoly Bautista took the loss for allowing four runs in the first three innings. Recommended Stories

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