- Full name Robert Stewart Stiehl
- Born 12/09/1980 in New Orleans, LA
- Profile Ht.: 6'3" / Wt.: 215 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School El Camino CC
Drafted in the 1st round (27th overall) by the Houston Astros in 2000 (signed for $1,250,000).
View Draft ReportCould Stiehl be the second coming of Troy Percival? More than 80 scouts who saw him make his first start of the season in late April think so, after clocking him at 97 mph. Stiehl was almost exclusively a catcher until this year, when he began closing games for his junior college team. He often caught the first eight innings of a game and pitched the ninth. Because he has minimal experience on the mound and lacks a second pitch, he is a high-risk pick but would be attractive to a team with extra picks, like the Angels. The Angels drafted Percival 10 years ago as a catcher and converted him to take advantage of his superior arm strength.
Organization Prospect Rankings
The Astros envisioned him as another Troy Percival. Like Percival, Stiehl was a college catcher with a strong arm and questionable bat. He hit 97 mph in his first start at El Camino (Calif.) JC, cementing his future role as a pro. Though he projected as Billy Wagner's eventual successor as the Houston closer, Stiehl was used as a starter last season to give him some needed innings. Kept on tight pitch limits, he blew away South Atlantic League hitters for two months before his shoulder began acting up. After taking a month off, Stiehl tried to pitch again in July before being shut down and having rotator-cuff surgery. Before he got hurt, Stiehl threw an easy 93-94 mph and topped out at 97. At times, his curveball and changeups were plus pitches as well. He'll miss all of 2002 and it remains to be seen how his stuff will be affected, but a healthy Stiehl has an extremely high ceiling.
The Astros drafted Stiehl in the first round last year, hoping he can make the same catcher-to-closer transition that Ricky Bottalico and Troy Percival did. Stiehl barely pitched until this spring, when he threw 97 mph in front of 80 scouts in his first start. Most of the time, he caught for eight innings and then took the mound in the ninth. Stiehl has a fresh, loose arm that can throw 93-94 mph fastballs with regularity. He also has an 81-82 mph power curveball that breaks straight down. Pro hitters went 5-for-37 (.135) with 20 strikeouts against him in his pro debut. He's strong and athletic but developed a sore shoulder toward the end of the season and was shut down with tendinitis. It's not a long-term concern. He's obviously raw as a pitcher and in need of experience. Houston will make him a starter next year to get him innings. In that role, he'll have to pick up a changeup and learn to keep his pitch counts down. The Astros realize Stiehl will need plenty of time to develop and will remain patient. To that end, he'll start this season in the low Class A Michigan rotation. His future remains in the bullpen.