Top 12 Jays Draft Targets, JJ Edition: #3 Robert Stephenson

This message will continue to be posted on each of the top 12 draft targets I will be listing daily until draft day: the players listed are not “the best” players in the draft, they are simply those that I believe could be around when the Jays draft, and that could wind up being selected by the Blue Birds when their turns come up. The list has 12 of the top targets and will be presented in reverse order (from least likely, to most likely). A prep arm is next with…

#3: Robert Stephenson (18)

RH Pitcher / 6’3″ 185 lbs / California

Birth Date: 24th of February 1993

High School Team: Alhambra HS

College: NA. Committed to Washington.

Quick Facts:

  • 2011 Rawlings Preseason All-American, Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American, Rawlings California All-Region 1st Team.
  • 2010 AFLAC All-American, Area Code Games.
  • Began 2011 with back-to-back no hitters.
  • His fastball ranked 3rd amongst prep arms.
  • Was named California’s Baseball player of the year in 2011.

Stats:

  • 2010: 8-4 / 104 KS
  • 2011: 13 GS / 7-2 / 1.32 ERA / 64 IP / 29 hits / 23 BB / 132 Ks

Interviews/Videos:

Pre-Draft Rankings (out of all pitchers in brackets):

  • BA Ranking June 3rd: #25 (16)
  • John Sickels May 20th: #24 (14)

It seems that many people are overlooking Robert in many regards. He has enough size already to be a very durable pitcher. He’s loose and limber, with very smooth arm action and a sound delivery overall. He is already working at 93-95 MPH, and he has already shown that he can throw an effective curve ball that goes 12/6 with good bite. At his age? I’m wondering if there are teams sitting in the bushes getting ready to pounce on him between the 11-20 spots at this point. Sure, there are a lot of other great players in this draft, some who are College arms that have already developed a lot. But, if a team is looking for a high ceiling, Robert makes a great target, and therefore seems to be the perfect fit for the high-ceiling hungry Jays.

To add to my hype on Robert, he already touches 97 MPH at 18 years old and already shows a good “feel” for a change up. Those last 2 points are very important to a club committing so much money and a high pick to Robert. If he can deliver on the promise shown in his change up, he should be able to start. A starter that has a good change up and a 97-98 MPH fastball should have a great shot at being dominant. That’s why I expect him to go sooner than the currently predicted 24-25 range.

The down side of Robert at this point includes 2 points. First, he’s very raw, so he’s not someone that will be ready in 2 years. The acquiring team will know that he’ll likely need 3-4 years at a minimum, and that makes him a bigger injury risk as well. That brings me to point #2, which is that some scouts point to “lots of effort” in his delivery. Blah Blah Blah. I read the exact same thing about Tim Lincecum when he was coming up, and I’m pretty sure he did alright. Besides, when you’re throwing a baseball at 90+ MPH, there’s always going to be “lots of effort”, isn’t there?

 

Expected Selection (if selected by the Jays): In the First Round, 21st Overall.

When you have a “still growing” pitcher already hitting 97 MPH on the radar gun, you’ve got something to hold on to. I would not be surprised in the least to see the Jays jump on Robert because he has all of the tools and attributes they look for in a pitcher. He has high upside, size, great makeup, and most of all – the ability and will to make it all come together. When I look at all of the depth the Jays have in the minors in terms of pitcher, it seems to make perfect sense to me that the Jays concentrate on getting the “next wave” going with a potent arm like Robert’s.

Of course, there are still 2 more names to come on my list….so he’s one of the 3 guys I like most at #21. He really is one of my favorites in this draft for the Jays, simply due to his ceiling being so very high and the fact that I believe he’s likely to be available at #21.

- MG

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