There has been a flurry of roster moves and promotions over the holiday weekend, so we’ll let’s start catching up our rookie profile series with Jackson Stephens, right-handed pitcher of the Cincinnati Reds. He made his MLB debut on Saturday, fanning eight in five innings with six hits and three runs allowed against the Chicago Cubs. He was sent back down Sunday but he’ll be back at some point. Here’s a quick look.
The Reds drafted Stephens in the 18th round in 2012 from high school in Oxford, Alabama. He spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons in the Midwest League and was hit fairly hard, but his third try at the level resulted in a 2.97 ERA in 145 innings. He jumped up to Double-A in 2016 and was quite good, posting a 3.33 ERA in 151 innings with a 131/41 K/BB.
Stephens was rated as a Grade C+ prospect pre-season, unranked among the Cincinnati Reds Top 20 prospects for 2017. He would have been in the 21-25 range.
For 2017 Stephens moved up to Triple-A Louisville, being hit satanically hard in April (6.66 ERA) but improving in May and June. He had a 4.97 ERA in 76 innings overall with a 60/33 K/BB.
Stephens is 6-2, 220, born May 11th, 1994. Doug Gray at Reds Minor Leagues reports Stephens with a low-90s fastball that can touch 94-95, a fringy change-up, an occasional slider, and an impressive curveball. Doug’s report fits what Stephens did against the Cubs.
Despite the eight whiffs against Chicago, Stephens is not usually overpowering, but his arsenal works when his command is sharp. Overall he projects as a back-of-the-rotation arm.