The Cincinnati Reds made a series of roster moves earlier on Tuesday, chief among them being Billy Hamilton's return from the 15-day DL and Brandon Finnegan's call-up since his trade from the Kansas City Royals. Not among the other players brought up was Robert Stephenson, however, and according to C. Trent Rosecrans of The Enquirer, that's because the top pitching prospect in the system will be heading to Arizona to pitch in the instructional league. Read that as "the Reds want him to build up innings, but they want to hold off on starting his service time and options until the absolute last minute, which hasn't yet arrived." As a side note, Finnegan had some pretty harsh quotes about the Royals in C. Trent's article, claiming they "kind of screwed [him] over this year" by using him primarily out of the bullpen since drafting him out of TCU last summer. Interesting.
Speaking of the trade that brought Finnegan to the Reds at the deadline, new Royals pitcher and former Reds ace Johnny Cueto has hit a bit of a rough patch in his last few starts with his new club. Cueto's sporting a 4.86 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 8 starts since the trade, and he's allowing dang near twice as many hits per 9 innings as he did in his remarkable 2014 campaign. His last four starts have been particularly rough, as he's averaged just 5 innings per outing, has yielded a .394 average and 1.042 OPS against, and has given up 21 ER during that stretch. It may well be due to a fluky-high .446 BABIP, but ESPN's Jayson Stark noticed that the success he had with his cutter while with the Reds has vanished almost entirely. I really hope Cueto finds a way to fix things before the playoffs roll around, since I'd like nothing more than to see him succeed on the biggest of baseball stages.
The least heralded of the trio of lefties the Reds nabbed in exchange for Cueto was likely Cody Reed, but his 2015 breakout is starting to make him look like the steal of the deal. Reed's recent stretch of dominant outings landed him another Southern League Pitcher of the Week Award, the second time he's taken home the award in the last five weeks. Reed owns a 6-2 record with a 2.17 ERA, 10.9 K/9, and 1.11 WHIP in his 8 starts since joining the Reds system, bringing his overall season line to 13-9 with a 3.03 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and 1.19 WHIP in his 145.2 IP between A+ and AA. That's a thoroughly impressive line across the board for the 22 year old, but since that also marks a significant innings increase from the 84 IP he tossed in all of 2014, I'd imagine that played a large role in why Reed won't be heading to pitch in the Arizona Fall League this season.
Speaking of the AFL, Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com broke down the rosters of each AFL team, and tabbed Reds farmhand Alex Blandino as the top prospect on the Peoria Javelinas. Axisa noted that the Javelinas don't sport as shiny a roster as some of the other AFL teams in terms of prospect hype (and that's why Blandino gets top billing), but the top end suggestion for Blandino's projection at the big leagues seems like something we'd all be pretty OK with.
Over at Reds.com, Mark Sheldon caught up with Zack Cozart to find out how the Reds SS has been doing since shredding both the LCL and ACL in his right knee earlier this season. Turns out, Zack's progressing quite well, and he appears to be on-track to be ready for the 2016 season. How the team handles having both he and Eugenio Suarez in the middle infield juggle will be one of the larger storylines heading into next season, but I believe it's a problem the Reds will be happy to have.