The Cincinnati Reds pitching staff has been very successful to start the 2019 season, but Robert Stephenson has led the charge so far and has been the team’s best reliever.
The Cincinnati Reds bullpen was thought to be a strength of this year’s team. However, the team’s best reliever was a question mark to even make the team out of Spring Training. Robert Stephenson‘s ascension has been completely unexpected and the former first round pick is the Reds best arm in the bullpen so far this season.
As the 2019 Spring Training was coming to the close there was one more spot to fill out the Cincinnati Reds’ roster. Either Matt Wisler, who was acquired from the Atlanta Braves in 2018, or long time Reds’ prospect Robert Stephenson would make the cut.
The final spot was believed by many to be filled by a player that would eat up innings and come into meaningless long relief spots whenever the starter had been chased early. But on Thursday, Stephenson came into a 3-run game in the bottom of the seventh to face All-Star, and $300 million dollar man, Manny Machado.
Stephenson has come a very long way since the coaching staff put their faith into him when breaking camp this year. Maybe that confidence is just what he needed to finally jump start his career and become what the Cincinnati Reds front office has always believed he could be.
To start the season, Robert Stephenson came into the second game against the Pirates. Although he came into a low-leverage situation and gave up a run, he struck out three batters and flashed the potential that scouts have long seen in him. Since that appearance, Stephenson has yet to give up an earned run and has struck out 12 batters in 8 ⅔ innings.
Only 26-years-old, the Reds’ front office and fans are finally seeing what they have long believed they had. Stephenson had been labeled one of the team’s top prospect for years, but command problems and uninspiring results have caused many people to deem him a bust.
Before the season started, Stephenson had played three years in the bigs, bouncing back and forth between Triple-A Louisville and the big league club. With the Reds, Stephenson accumulated a 5.47 ERA and walked 5.7 batters per 9 innings. Not exactly results that show much promise. But above average stuff, and swing and miss potential kept the believers pleading their case to keep him on the team.
Now we are 19 games into the season and Stephenson is coming into high-leverage situations, making those believers smile wide. Stephenson has put his command issues behind and has used his above average arsenal to over power opposing hitters.
Stephenson owns a 0.84 ERA so far in 2019 with 15 strikeouts and 1 walk. His lone base on balls was an intentional walk with first base open in order to face the right-handed hitting Jesus Aguilar, who lined out to end the inning.
Stephenson’s start to the year has been an incredible surprise in this young season. Although he was originally slated to be a long reliever, Stephenson has already gained the trust of David Bell and his staff.
If Robert Stephenson can continue to show that he has ditched his command issues and strikeout hitters at the rate he is (12.7 per 9), we might see him in very important situations throughout the season. It may have taken longer than expected for him to reach his true potential, but hey, better late than never.