Perhaps the biggest story for teams that aren't expected to do a lot of current winning is the path of their highest-rated prospects, and this year's Cincinnati Reds club isn't much different. That makes Thursday's MLB debut for Robert Stephenson that much more of a spectacle, both for his on-mound performance and for what impact is has on the future of the team. The Enquirer's Zach Buchanan took a look at the unique scenario, one that will most likely feature just a single start against a bad Philadelphia Phillies team before a return to AAA marination, albeit one that will get his big league service clock started.
Two things highlight Stephenson's call-up, and they're worth emphasizing. First, the only real reason we're seeing him this early is due to the spate of injuries with the Reds pitching staff, not because the team is convinced he's 100% ready for the big leagues. They're well aware of how he struggles with command at times - which is part of why they optioned him to Louisville in the first place - and it's clear that the soon-to-return Anthony DeSclafani and Jon Moscot will pick up for him as soon as they're ready. Second, the service time issue is only an issue if the Reds choose to make it one, and even then it's not as big of a deal as we may have made it out to be. Johnny Cueto broke camp with the 2008 squad and never really left the rotation, the team failing to stall his promotion long enough to build in an extra "year" of team control. But, they wanted him around long term, so they signed him to an extension that kept him as a Red - that's why he was even around in the first place last season.
Mike Leake, of course, was on the opposite end of a similar decision, since the Reds never reached a long-term deal with him to extend their team control. In other words, starting a player's service clock doesn't mean they necessarily hit free agency any earlier, it simply bumps up how soon the team has to make a decision on a player just a slight bit. Rest assured that if Stephenson turns out to be as good as we all hope, the three or four days he's picking up while on the roster right now aren't going to be the difference in whether the Reds keep him around until he's 32, 35, or 38 years old.
In other top-prospects news, Minor League Ball's John Sickels had some updated thoughts on Jose Peraza, including an interesting comparison to Florida Marlins speedster Dee Gordon. It's probably worth noting at this point that Gordon won both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger as part of a remarkable 2015 campaign, one in which he became the first National League player to both lead the league in steals and win a batting title in the same season since Jackie Robinson. Yes, Jackie Robinson. Good gravy, I hope that comparison comes to fruition.
Zach Buchanan also filled in for C. Trent for today's BAR, and it's full of interesting tidbits. He recounts his first Opening Day in Cincinnati, takes a look at the interesting storylines with the Reds' MiLB affiliates, and caught up with Brandon Phillips to see if a bit of a weight-loss might have him in, oh, something close to The Best Shape of His Life (TM). Also included (if you're willing to spelunk down the page): Jake Cave was returned to the New York Yankees and will report to their AAA affiliate in Trenton.
MLB Trade Rumors interviewed Reds' GM slash Almost GM slash Future GM Dick Williams on his decision to attend the University of Virginia, and it gives an interesting glimpse into the thought processes of the guy now in charge of the team you follow.
Here's August Fagerstrom from FanGraphs talking about Noah Syndergaard in a comparison to what Aroldis Chapman would've/should've been, and it's enough to make anyone who wanted Chapman to be a starter stick their head in a blender. Ryan Madson's stupid elbow, man.
Finally, Brandon Finnegan will take the mound for the Reds tonight against the Phillies on Opening Night (weather permitting), and there should be no fewer than fifteen or so Red Reporters in attendance. They'll be the really, really tall ones hanging out with the really, really short ones. Given the way this Reposter started, it's worth mentioning that Finnegan is actually younger than Robert Stephenson, and the Royals cared not about starting his service time clock long before Stephenson's call up. It's funny, since I get the feeling lots of people assume Finnegan's much older given that he's been in the big leagues since the 2014 postseason. Not so, however.