The 2017 season did not start out well for Jackson Stephens. The then 22-year-old struggled mightily in his first three Triple-A starts for Louisville. In 13.1 innings he was charged with 15 earned runs (10.13 ERA) with seven walks and four home runs allowed. Things got a little bit better in the final two starts of April. Stephens threw 12.1 innings with just four earned runs. For the month he finished with a 6.66 ERA in 25.2 innings with 12 walks and 21 strikeouts. That also came with six home runs allowed.
In May things got out to a much better start. Jackson Stephens allowed two solo home runs in 6.0 innings with four strikeouts in his first game of the month. Things took a turn the next time out in about as bad of a way possible. The right hander, a day shy of turning 23, didn’t make it out of the first inning. He allowed eight hits, a walk and six earned runs while recording just two outs. The rest of the month went well for Stephens, allowing just six earned in 19.0 innings with one home run and six walks. The one poor game ballooned his ERA for May to 4.91 in 25.2 innings. His walk rate dropped off, giving up just seven free passes with 19 strikeouts.
After going nine days between appearances, Jackson Stephens made a relief appearance on June 4th. He threw a shutout inning with a walk. Three days later he would take the mound as a starter and struggle to throw strikes. The righty walked six batters in 5.0 innings. Six days later he struggled with his control again, walking five batters in 5.2 innings – but limited the damage to just one run. The final two starts of June went well. Stephens gave up just five earned in 13.0 innings with two walks and 12 strikeouts. It was his best month of the year in terms of ERA, posting a 3.28 mark. That came in 24.2 innings with 20 strikeouts – but his walk rate was high as he gave out 14 free passes. He didn’t allow a home run for the month, though, which helped limit the damage.
His strong finish to June got him a call up to the Major Leagues for a spot start on July 1st. It wasn’t a great match up as he had to take on the Chicago Cubs potent lineup, but he came through in a big way. Jackson Stephens picked up the win with three runs spread across 5.0 innings with eight strikeouts. He returned to Triple-A and was charged with an unearned run in 7.0 innings against Toledo. The remainder of the month, though, was a struggle. In the final four starts he posted a 7.08 ERA in 20.1 innings. For the entire month he posted a 5.29 ERA with six walks and 29 strikeouts in 32.1 innings.
August didn’t get out to an easy start for Jackson Stephens. He walked five batters without a strikeout against Indianapolis on the 5th. Six days later he rebounded well with two runs allowed against Gwinnett over 6.0 innings. The final three starts were solid, but unspectacular. Stephens gave up nine runs in 20.0 innings. That completed the month with a 4.20 ERA over 30.0 innings with 13 walks and 20 strikeouts.
Jackson Stephens final appearance in Triple-A for the year came on the 1st of September. He was charged with four earned in 5.2 innings with nine strikeouts. After that game he was promoted to the big leagues as a September call up. His first three appearances came out of the bullpen where he threw 6.1 shutout frames with two walks and three strikeouts. On the 19th he made his way back to the mound as a starter. Things didn’t go well as the Cardinals touched him up for five runs in 3.2 innings. Stephens rebounded well against the Red Sox. He allowed one earned on just two hits and two walks in 6.0 innings. The season would end on a down note. Taking on the Cubs, the right hander allowed four runs in 4.0 innings, earning his first loss of his Major League career. For September he posted a 4.91 ERA in 25.2 innings with eight walks and 22 strikeouts. His time out of the bullpen was much better than his time in the rotation.
For all 2017 Season Reviews and Scouting Reports – click here (these will come out during the week throughout the offseason).
Jackson Stephens Scouting Report
Fastball | During his time in the minor leagues, Jackson Stephens worked with his fastball in the 91-94 MPH range. But when he reached the Majors, he found some extra velocity, throwing 92-95 and touching as high as 97.
Curveball | The main go-to secondary pitch, Stephens throws the curveball in the mid-to-upper 70’s. It shows good 12-6 break and is an above-average offering.
Slider | A second breaking ball that he mixes in. The pitch works in the low-to-mid 80’s and is a average offering.
Change Up | The pitch that Stephens goes to the least often, the change up works in the low-to-mid 80’s. It’s a fringe-average offering.
As a starter, nothing really leaps off of the page with Jackson Stephens. He doesn’t have a plus offering to work with. He’s got average velocity. But, he throws strikes and all four of his pitches are solid or better. As a starter he profiles more as a back of the rotation type. He’s remained healthy for his entire career, and he’s shown he can handle a full season of innings. The Reds may keep him in the rotation as depth for 2018 in the minor leagues. But, his profile as a reliever could be tempting. Allowing him to focus on his fastball and curveball combination is an enticing idea for someone who is a bit down the depth chart if all of the other starting pitchers are healthy with the use of supplements and sarms such as lgd 4033. While Stephens probably doesn’t profile as a closer in the bullpen, a 7th or 8th inning reliever doesn’t seem out of the question – especially if he can pick up a small tick upwards in his velocity while focusing on shorter outings.