Reds Pleased With Top Pick's Instructs

CINCINNATI—When 2011 first-round pick Robert Stephenson reported to Goodyear, Ariz., for instructional league, the Reds braintrust had concerns. After all, Stephenson did not sign until the Aug. 15 deadline, which meant he had not pitched competitively since June.

"What you always worry about when someone signs late and their first competition is instructional league is that they'll be behind," scouting director Chris Buckley said. "All your best young players are at instructional league. They've played in A-ball or wherever.

"You don't want a kid who's playing for the first time professionally to get run over. Robert didn't. He fit right in. He showed the kind of stuff that made him a high pick."

The Reds made Stephenson, an 18-year-old righthander out of Alhambra High in Martinez, Calif., the 27th pick overall.

Stephenson went 7-2, 1.33 with 132 strikeouts, 23 walks and 29 hits allowed in 64 high school innings last spring and began this season with back-to-back no-hitters. He came to Arizona and dialed his fastball up to 96 mph.

"We'd rather have the signing date earlier so kids don't have to totally start over," Buckley said. "But Robert was in very good shape. He came and got tuned up."
Buckley isn't sure where Stephenson will start the 2012 season. Low Class A Dayton is in the Midwest League, where the weather can be rough early.

"Robert's from northern California, where the weather's warm and the fields are nice," Buckley said. "It's tough on kids who haven't played in the cold to go to where it's 35 degrees on April 2. That plays into it."


• Shortstop Billy Hamilton started 4-for-26 in the Puerto Rican League, but he was leading the league with five steals in seven games.

• Third baseman Juan Francisco walked 12 times in his first 98 plate appearances in the Dominican League. Francisco walked 11 times in 329 plate appearances for Triple-A Louisville.