Tuesday night saw Robert Stephenson make his best start of the season with the Louisville Bats. The right hander threw 8.0 shutout innings, walking just one batter and allowing three hits. He also struck out 10 batters in the game, which is his fourth double digit strikeout game of the season, but his first with the Louisville Bats.

The Cincinnati Reds top prospect lowered his ERA to 2.40 through five starts with the Bats. In 30.0 innings he’s allowed 20 hits, one home run, 11 walks and he’s struck out 31 batters while posting a 1.03 WHIP. Overall, granted in a much smaller sample size, he’s been better at Triple-A this season that he was in Double-A.

On Tuesday night against the Charlotte Knights it was the offspeed stuff that was working for Stephenson, particularly early on in the game. As the game went along he was able to get better control with his fastball and really began to cruise, leaving the batters helpless.

As he warmed up for the 8th inning, the MiLB.tv feed in Louisville was showing the scoreboard, which also shows the radar gun. In his warm ups, Stephenson was sitting at 93-94 MPH. It was rather hilarious to see that. From a pure stuff standpoint, this was arguably the best he has looked this season. The early fastball spottiness will keep me from saying it’s the best the he’s looked all season, but it was close.

While the overall numbers on the season for Robert Stephenson are good, the run he has been on since the 1st inning of his start on May 23rd are just on a different level. In that 1st inning he walked four batters before something just seemed to click. He struck out the final two batters of that inning. Beginning there, here is what the right hander has done:

IP H BB K HR ERA WHIP
73.1 41 26 85 5 2.09 0.91

That’s a long stretch of dominant pitcher from Stephenson and with the Cincinnati Reds likely to move Mike Leake before the trade deadline, it’s begs the question, which C. Trent Rosecrans speculated on last night. Could Stephenson be the next in line to take over for the Reds when a rotation spot opens up?

Things could line up perfectly to see that happen. The Reds have to add Stephenson to the 40-man roster in the offseason as it is, so the team wouldn’t be wasting an option year as long as they didn’t send him back down this season. However they would be starting his service clock sooner, and in a lost season, giving him a third of a season of service time would certainly be a strange move for a team looking to build down the road rather than win right now.