Cincinnati Reds have a question as to what Robert Stephenson is

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

After a year in which Robert Stephenson both started and relieved for the Cincinnati Reds, they still don’t know what they have.

The Cincinnati Reds hoped to tease out what Robert Stephenson was this season.  He projects as an ace, but he has never had it all together at the big league level.  Now, the Reds have spent a season without a definitive answer, including a trip to the DL for the former top prospect.

Stephenson made a total of 25 appearances, including eleven starts.  That resulted in a record of 5-6.  By the end of the season Stephenson had a respectable ERA of 4.68.

As a reliever, Stephen went 0-2 with an ERA of 7.43.  He only pitched 26 ⅔ innings in 14 relief appearances.  He only allowed one home run, but also surrendered an amazing 17 walks.

As a starter, Stephenson ended the season above .500 with a record of 5-4.  He ended up with an impressive ERA of 3.41 as a starter.  He also averaged over five innings a start throwing 58 innings across those eleven starts.

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Stephenson has a few other interesting aspects of the starts.  He only allowed 48 hits or well under one per inning pitched.  This led to a batting average against of .231.

Despite his improvement as a starter, Robert Stephenson faces an uphill battle to earn a starting role with the Cincinnati Reds.

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Prior to getting his stuff together, Stephenson was passed in the prospect hierarchy by the trio of Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, and Sal Romano.  Castillo and Mahle started the season in Double-A, while Romano did enough in spring training to start in Triple-A.  Now all three look destined to begin the season in the rotation.  Castillo and Stephenson are top 100 prospects from last off-season.

The Reds also seem committed to Anthony DeSclafani and Homer Bailey as starters.  DeSclafani missed the entire season with an injury.  

Bailey finally pitched for a few months in a row, but did not look competitive.

Stephenson, though, has no one to blame, but himself.  He has not been able to solve the strikezone at the MLB level.  Until he can consistently throw strikes, he will face these difficulties.

Right now, it appears that Stephenson will begin 2018 as the ace in Louisville.  The Reds want to see that Stephenson has his control issues under control.  Then he can return to the big league rotation and realize his potential.

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This is how far the Reds came in 2017.   Now they have enough depth to develop players.  Stephenson is close and should return to Cincinnati at some point in 2018 as a starting pitcher.