Cincinnati Reds: Three unexpected impact players in 2020 season

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 11: Kyle Farmer #52 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 11: Kyle Farmer #52 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Reds
DENVER, CO – JULY 14: Robert Stephenson #55 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

2. Reds reliever Robert Stephenson will build off successful 2019 season.

Was there a more impressive pitcher out of the Reds bullpen last year than Robert Stephenson? Sure, Michael Lorenzen had a great season and Amir Garrett dominated the competition during the early-going, but Stephenson’s consistent pitching and improvement in nearly every element of his game should give David Bell confidence in the right-hander’s ability with the game on the line.

A 60-game season will require all hands on deck. The use of the Reds bullpen may be one of the most intriguing aspects of the upcoming season. With only three weeks to get their arms ready, it’s questionable as to how many innings a starter will be able to go. Thankfully for the Reds, Tyler Mahle and Lucas Sims offer some versatility, with the ability to start or come in as a long reliever.

The numbers speak for themselves. After a horrendous 2018 season, one that saw Stephenson pitch in just four games and own a 9.26 ERA. Stephenson couldn’t throw strikes, ending his 2018 campaign with more walks (12) than strikeouts (11). But last season, Stephenson couldn’t miss the strike zone. The former first-round pick put up a 30.9% strikeout-rate according to FanGraphs.

Stephenson evolved into a two-pitch pitcher, relying heavily on his slider, which he throw more than 56% of the time. The biggest change in Stephenson’s game from 2018 to 2019, was the free passes. While surrendering 12 walks in just 11.2 innings during the 2018 season, Stephenson issues just 24 base on balls in 64.2 innings of work, good enough for a 9.2% walk-rate; a career-best.