While the pros were wrapping a 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday, Cincinnati Reds prospects Jesse Winker and Robert Stephenson embarked on a journey of their own—a 3-2 United States win over the World team in the Futures Game.
Batting seventh, playing left field, may be an announcement Reds fans can get used to, as that was how Jesse Winker was introduced on Sunday. Still a month away from his 21st birthday, Winker was setting the forest ablaze (no pun intended) during his stay in high-A ball with the Bakersfield Blaze. A ridiculous slash line of .317/.426/.580 coupled with 13 home runs and 49 RBI warranted a promotion to Double-A Pensacola.
Since becoming a Blue Wahoo, Winker has scuffled. Batting only .213 in 89 plate appearances, it has taken the sweet swinging lefty some time to adjust to the next highest level of baseball.
On Sunday, he would slash a line drive double in his first at-bat to left field before eventually coming around to score the first run of the game for either team. He would then fly out softly in his next at-bat, ending his day 1-for-2 on his biggest platform yet.
Whether or not Robert Stephenson makes an impact with the big league club this season is yet to be determined, but sooner rather than later, the former first-round pick with a fastball that nears triple-digits will be up wearing the red and white.
His continued progress at Double-A Pensacola has been a bit slowed by his astronomically high walk rate, which sits at 4.6/per 9 IP, or 48 walks in 93 innings. While he has struck out exactly 93 batters in those 93 innings, the decline in his K/BB ratio can be concerning, regardless of his explosive stuff.
Still, with a one-run lead in the top of the eighth, it was Stephenson getting the ball. There were no walks, but Stephenson’s other mortal enemy, the wild pitch, struck. He would strike out Javier Baez, whom he is almost all but destined to meet in the Pros one day for the first out of the inning. There would be two more infield groundouts and Stephenson would technically be credited with a hold.
Neither man may appear for the Redlegs in 2014, or even 2015, but as the farm system has consistently shown over the past few seasons, the Reds do not miss with their top prospects.