Spring training is underway, and while I won’t be leaving for Arizona for another month, the Reds have plenty of reporters out there covering the team. Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer just shared this :

The Cincinnati Reds picked up the right handed pitcher on waivers yesterday. As I wrote yesterday, while he was returning from Tommy John surgery and had some struggles in the first half, when he moved to the rotation in the second half he really put together a strong stretch. With two open rotation spots available, this makes too much sense. While on the overall depth chart of prospects he’s probably nowhere near the top, as they all sit today in terms of readiness, he’s probably a lot closer to the top of that list. Maybe he doesn’t win a spot in the rotation, and grabs a spot in the bullpen. But there’s no reason to not see what you’ve got as a starter given how last season played out for him.

Mark Sheldon has an interesting article up on Robert Stephenson and some of the things he learned in 2016 at the Major League level. While there’s an interesting quote in there about the Delino DeShields public call out, here’s the part that I am far more intrigued by:

I really need to work on hitting the inside target,” Stephenson said. “I wanted to get a lot better at that during the offseason, especially this spring. There were a lot of times last year where we needed to go inside on somebody based on the scouting report. I’d try to go inside, miss over the middle of the plate and get hit really hard. It wasn’t command. In the bullpen, I could hit that spot every time,” Stephenson said. “But as soon as you put a batter in there, it’s when I had the problem — getting as far inside as I needed to.

Control and command have been big questions for Robert Stephenson over the last few years. It’s been an interesting situation, as sometimes we see guys move up and their walk rates go up because hitters just get better and can lay off of stuff out of the zone that the lower level guys simply couldn’t. For Stephenson that has not been the case. When he was in Dayton and had a low walk rate it wasn’t just because he was just overpowering hitters who expanded the zone left and right because his stuff was so good. He was able to throw the ball in the strikezone, at the knees, on the corners. And he was able to do it often. He had that ability. He no longer seems to be able to do that with anywhere near the same kind of consistency. If he’s going to become a high end big league pitcher he’s going to need to improve on that ability. The good news is that he understands that and, at least according to him (I don’t get to watch his bullpen sessions with nearly enough frequency to say one way or the other), when he’s “practicing”, that skillset is there. He’s just got to figure out a way to carry that over into games.

The other day I tried to create an instagram account for the site. It didn’t go well as there was an error in signing up, which then led to the name no longer being available and that account being suspended despite never even being logged into. The hoops I would have to jump through to even attempt to recover the account name was insane, so it’s not happening. I’ve decided to just put all of my baseball photography onto my personal account and call it a day. If you’re interested, you can follow me here. Be forewarned, it will also include aspects of my actual non-baseball life, too.

19 Responses

  1. Bill

    As of today, how do you handicap the 4th and 5th rotation spots? I have:
    – Cody Reed
    – Robert Stephenson
    – Tim Adleman
    – Lisalverto Bonilla
    – Amir Garrett (I expect him to be held back a couple of weeks at least due to service time considerations)

    • Doug Gray

      I think that is probably the right order with the top three being relatively close.

    • DanD

      No faith in Arroyo or just an oversight? Curious of what he has left.

      • Bill

        To me, the chances that he will be able to pitch in the rotation for a year are pretty remote given that he hasn’t pitched in 2 years. I think if he makes the team it will be in the bullpen. So not so much a lack of faith, but I take Arroyo’s public statements that he doesn’t know what his arm is capable of doing at face value.

      • Matthew O'Neal

        I would like to see him join the club as a coach if he doesn’t make the team out of the Spring. Have a hard time thinking he would accept a AAA assignment. And if he doesn’t make the Reds, what team could he make?

    • Muddy Cleats

      Really want 2 B a Stephenson Fan, but he’s been w/ Reds for 6-7 yrs now and we’re still talking about FB command? Real problem is, he has NO out pitch or above avg off speed pitch to keep hitters off balance. Therefore, he (and many other Reds pitchers) have 2 B perfect w/ their FB which is nearly impossible @ ML level. This just in…..ML hitters luv 2 hit FBs and spinning sliders that don’t break! Sad part is, the organization keeps drafting & developing this type of pitcher…….see Reed, Cingrani ect

      • Doug Gray

        While we are looking at small sample sizes of big league action, at least in 2016, the statement that he has no out pitch or above-average offspeed pitch to keep hitters off balance is 100%, provably false.

        His curveball and split were both above-average pitches in 2016 at the big league level when it comes to how hitters actually handled them. His curveball, per 100 thrown, was actually among the best in the league among starting pitchers. His rated out as 1.5 runs better than average per 100 thrown. Again, small sample size of just 37 innings compared to the 100+ innings for other starters, but that 1.5 per 100 thrown would rank inside the Top 10 out of 142 pitchers. His splitter/change up is 0.5 runs above average per 100 thrown. That’s in the top 40 among that same group of 142 pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched.

        Here’s the problem: His fastball was -2.62 runs per 100 thrown. That’s good for dead last. It’s the fastball command. It’s falling behind hitters because of that, then letting them sit on it.

        Michael Lorenzen had the same problem as a rookie. His fastball got absolutely destroyed because he couldn’t throw it for strikes often enough. He fell behind in many counts, then guys could sit on it and crush it. Then he started throwing it for strikes and it went from -1.25 runs per 100 thrown in 2015 to +0.88 in 2016. Yeah, going to the bullpen helped and it gave him a tad more velocity, but it really came down to the fact that he was able to throw it for strikes.

        Stephenson is behind held back by the fastball control. The offspeed stuff plays just fine. He’s just got to get into better counts.

      • MuddyCleats

        So if what U say below is true, then it’s nothing more than pitch selection and again we’re back to pitching vs throwing which is problematic for most Reds pitchers. Many good pitchers pitch backwards…that is…get ahead w/ his “outstanding” off speed pitch and then expand the K zone w/ his FB…..it’s called pitching for a reason. I want all the Reds pitchers to succeed, but it’s clear there is a problem in how the Reds develop pitchers and a lot of it IMHO starts on Draft Day. Turn 2 Finnegan & his season changed late last yr because he started emphasizing the change-up more often which kept hitters off his FB. In short, he became a better PITCHER via pitch selection

      • Doug Gray

        No, it’s not pitch selection, it’s pitch execution.

        Guys can certainly pitch backwards, so to speak, but reality is, starters all have (well, almost) at least three pitches. And 80% of them throw their fastball at least 50% of the time. Very few pitchers are actually going offspeed/breaking stuff more than they are going fastball. One out of five starters do it.

        Finnegan started going to his change up more because he changed his grip on the pitch and he saw that it was actually a decent pitch at that point. It was just as much about improving the pitch as using it more frequently.

      • MuddyCleats

        “Last time I faced these guys, I didn’t have a changeup,” Finnegan said. “They were definitely gearing up for a fastball matchup.” Of his 97 pitches in the game, he threw a changeup 23 times. To get it back and working — if it wasn’t for Mr. Straily over there — I’d still be without a changeup. I’ve been working hard on it. Every ‘pen I work on it. Hopefully I can keep it going.” So here again, it’s a Reds fellow pitcher who is key 2 improvement & not the coaching staff. Proof is in the pudding….Reds have a hard time drafting & developing SPs…whatever the reason…facts back that up over the recent past. Hopefully, Homer & Disco can help Robert turn the corner and Finnegan can improve Reed & Garrett. However who helps them, their improvement is paramount to Reds success going forward that I think we can agree on

  2. Arnold Ziffle

    Earth to Robert Stephenson. Earth to Robert Stephenson, come in please. When you are doing your bullpen work, have somebody stand in the batter’s box as you practice. Simulate an actual batter.
    Sounds like Stephenson is afraid he will hit and injure somebody, if he is having these type of problems. Subconsciously he is afraid to pitch inside. At the ML level pitchers have to own that inside corner, but Stephenson is handicapping himself by not being afraid to pitch inside.
    This is baffling.

    • wes

      I think with Stephenson he just needs to learn how to adapt to the pressure. It was all on his shoulders last year and he didn’t respond well. Working on ways to reinvent himself should fair very well for him. He seemed real uptight out there.

      I want to see Reds get their money outa Price this year! Not saying I want him long term, but he is a pitching coach and a highly regarded one. Like to see him make something out of Reed and Stephenson this year!

    • bryant

      I think you have nailed it. He is probably setting up negatively i.e. not to hit the batter when their is a batter. Without the batter he probably picks a target that he focuses on and then hits. A good sports psychologist ought to be able to help him fix this. Sounds pretty promising to me.

  3. MikeD

    Hey Doug,

    Guess I will have to check out Sheldon’s story to see what he said about DeShield’s comments. It certainly seems as if some pitchers get it later than others and once they do, their ability shines (Arreta). Stephenson has the ability and hopefully in time, he will put it altogether. I certainly would not think about moving him to the bullpen anytime soon.

    Your pictures are great, it is good to see you smile. Your site photo looks so serious.

    Glad to hear you are going out to Arizona and I am going to send a $100 donation your way and would challenge others to send some as well. You provide a great service to us Reds fans and a few dollars is probably more helpful than words of appreciation!

    Thank you!

    • Doug Gray

      The next time I put on a tie, I will get a new picture. That only happens once a year though lol. Maybe something else comes up…. I don’t take too many photos of myself unless it’s also with my nephews.

      I appreciate the donation. That’ll definitely go towards Arizona sleeping arrangements (or maybe ones on the way there or back since I drive out there). I can’t wait to get out there…. seeing the full-time beat guys out there already has me incredibly jealous – even though minor league camp doesn’t get underway for several more weeks. I’m really hoping to not have my computer crap the bed this year and be able to provide plenty of spring training content in a timely manner (though, this year, I should be covered – I’ve got two computers now that are capable of handling the video production end of things, at least at the simple level).

  4. MikeD

    That’s fair Doug!

    Come on guys, let’s get behind Doug’s work in Arizona!

  5. earmbrister

    Unrelated … The Cards Alex Reyes is having TJ surgery. Apparently Rosenthal to convert to starting.