Robert Stephenson came into the 2012 season without having made his debut yet, but was among the Reds top pitching prospects.
The Reds kept Stephenson back in extended spring training to allow him to begin his season with the Billings Mustangs. He made his debut on June 19th with 5 shutout innings with a walk and eight strkeouts. He finished up the month of June with a total of three starts that spanned 14 innings with a 2.57 ERA, 2 walks and 19 strikeouts.
When July rolled around things weren’t as easy. Over his first two starts of the month the right hander struggled going just 6.2 innings with 6 walks and 5 strikeouts, though he did only allow one earned run in that span. Over his next two starts Stephenson threw 10 innings without a walk and 13 strikeouts with 2 earned runs. After that stretch he was promoted to Dayton after posting an ERA of 2.05 in 30.2 innings with the Mustangs. In his debut with the Dragons to end the month of July he threw 5 shutout innings with just one hit allowed, two walks and six strikeouts.
August started off well as Stephenson threw nine innings over his first two starts with just two earned runs , two walks and 10 strikeouts. He struggled in his next start as he allowed four earned runs in four innings with three walks and four strikeouts. Stephenson struggled in two of his next four starts as he finished the August and September stretch run of seven starts with a 4.91 ERA in 29.1 innings with 13 walks and 29 strikeouts. With Dayton he finished with an ERA of 4.19 in 34.1 innings with 15 walks and 35 strikeouts.
Stephenson had a strong debut and absolutely improved his prospect status as he showed Ace potential. He touched 101 MPH on the radar gun in one start, sat 95-97 in other starts, mixed in a strong curveball and a nice change up. His control suffered over the last few starts of the season and will be something he must improve in the future. Still, he showed upside that very few players can match and put up strong numbers in his debut as a teenager.