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Monday, June 06, 2011

Reds 1st pick is Robert Stephenson

Given their low draft position, I was hoping that someone would fall down to the Reds, and they in turn would pull a Pirates draft and sign their guy over slot.  That doesn't seem to be what happened here (though he may well require over-slot money), but it's not like the Reds were reaching either.

From what I've gathered, Robert Stephenson is a hard throwing right-hander with a good frame and three pitches: fastball, curve, change.  They showed a change-up on the Reds broadcast, and it had decent looking movement on it in on the hands of a right-hander, although it is reported his 3rd best pitch.  His MLB video only shows fastballs (as far as I can tell), and he reportedly sits 93-95 mph and has hit 97 or 98.  Reports are good on his control (given his age), and at least one person out there thinks that some mechanical tweaks can improve it even more.  Could be true, could just be someone talking...  Also unquantifiable is his makeup: 4.2 GPA*, reportedly works hard at baseball, is coachable, etc.

* For what it's worth, as an educator, I'm not a fan of the extra-credit-on-your-GPA classes.  I know some high schools do this for AP classes.  Others do it for A+'s.  I just find it annoying, because you really have no idea what's going on behind that GPA when someone's in the 3.7-3.9 range.  They might be taking "hard" classes, but getting B's.  That's not necessarily going to translate well into college.  But whatever.  At least in Stephenson's case, we know he did great.

All reports are that he's signable (if you pay him enough), so I expect the Reds to get this done.  Might take going a bit over slot, but I always support doing that when it's necessary to get good talent.


In general, I'm not crazy about HS pitchers from a risk standpoint.  But at the same time, that's definitely where the upside is these days.  The old Moneyball/Bill James mantra that HS pitchers aren't worth it is no longer holding true in the data, and for a pretty simple reason: signing bonuses are high enough now to convince the truly elite talent to sign out of high school, whereas they used to get comparable value from a college scholarship.*

* As an aside, this is precisely why a hard slotting system is a bad idea: the current system allows MLB to get the top athletes into baseball before they either go to college or have a chance to sign with another sport.

Kevin Goldstein has the philosophy that you draft for upside because most teams can't sign elite guys as a free agent, and trading for them requires you to give up similar amounts of talent.  There's a lot of truth in that.  And with the Reds picking at a franchise-record-lowest 27th overall this year, you're not going to find safeish, high upside picks at this point in the draft.  So rolling the dice and going after a high school arm with top of the rotation potential is an ok gamble to me.

Of course, I'm sort of making judgments in a vacuum here, as I don't follow amateur baseball at all, and I don't know what else was out there...I'm not really even qualified to have an opinion. ;)  But the last Reds' draft pick to completely bomb was Chris Grueler in 2002.***  If you look at the current Reds squad, their top picks since 2004 are a major part of what has gotten them to be where they are: Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, (soon) Devin Mesoraco, and Mike Leake.  They've clearly built up a track record, so I think they deserve to be trusted.

*** A careful reader would note that the Reds have taken two right-handed high school pitchers since 2002. One has been a modest success in Homer Bailey.  The other is Chris Grueler.  50% is pretty good performance on a HS arm, but that's what we're dealing with here.

Resources on Robert Stephenson (will add more as I go)
Marc Hulet:
Reds: Robert Stephenson, LHP (California HS): Stephenson doesn't currently have the ceiling of some of the other prep arms available but he's received first round consideration from teams looking for signability. He's said to have solid control but I don't like the all-out effort in his delivery. In one video segment on, his hat nearly flew off his head during his delivery - on more than one occasion. His curveball and changeup need a fair bit of work but his fastball can reach the mid-90s.