Robert Stephenson (baseball)

Robert William Stephenson (born February 24, 1993) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball (MLB). He has previously played in MLB for the Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies.

Robert Stephenson
Pittsburgh Pirates – No. 43
Born: (1993-02-24) February 24, 1993
Martinez, California
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
MLB debut
April 7, 2016, for the Cincinnati Reds
Career statistics
(through 2022 season)
Win–loss record14–16
Earned run average4.90

Amateur career

Stephenson began pitching when he was nine years old.[1] He attended Alhambra High School in Martinez, California, which he graduated from with a 4.2 grade point average. Stephenson's senior season for the high school's baseball team began with two consecutive no-hitters.[2] He finished the season with an 8–2 win–loss record and 1.19 earned run average (ERA) in 76+23 innings pitched.[3] He recorded 142 strikeouts, while walking 23 and allowing 29 hits. Alhambra reached the North Coast Section Division III playoffs' second round.[4]

Stephenson was named the Gatorade California Baseball Player of the Year.[4] He was rated by Baseball America as the 25th-best prospect in that year's draft,[2] and the 12th best right-handed pitching prospect in the draft.[5] He was invited to participate in the 2010 Aflac All-America Game; Stephenson was named the starting pitcher for the West Team and pitched two scoreless innings.[6] Stephenson committed to attend the University of Washington to play college baseball for the Washington Huskies baseball team.[3][6]

Professional career

Cincinnati Reds

Considered a possible first round selection,[7] the Reds selected Stephenson in the first round of the 2011 Major League Baseball (MLB) draft, with the 27th overall selection. Stephenson became the Reds' first high school player chosen in the first round of the MLB draft since they chose catcher Devin Mesoraco in the first round of the 2007 draft, and the first prep school pitcher the organization had chosen in the first round since the selection of Homer Bailey in the 2004 draft.[2] Stephenson signed with the Reds for a reported $2 million signing bonus.[3] Baseball America rated Stephenson as one of the Reds' top ten prospects before the 2012 season, despite his not having made his professional debut.[8] Stephenson began the 2012 season in extended spring training.[9]

Stephenson made his professional debut with the Billings Mustangs of the Rookie-level Pioneer League on June 19, 2012. He pitched five innings and struck out eight batters.[10] In seven games with Billings, Stephenson had a 2.05 ERA, allowing only 22 hits and eight walks in 30+23 innings pitched, while striking out 37.[11] In July, the Reds promoted Stephenson to the Dayton Dragons of the Class A Midwest League.[12] For Dayton, Stephenson had a 4.19 ERA in eight starts, as he allowed 32 hits and 15 walks, while striking out 35 batters.[11]

The Reds assigned Stephenson to begin the 2013 season with Dayton.[13] After pitching to a 5–3 win–loss record and a 2.57 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 77 innings, he was promoted to the Bakersfield Blaze of the Class A-Advanced California League on July 18.[14] Less than a month later, after pitching to a 2–2 record and a 3.05 ERA with Bakersfield, the Reds promoted Stephenson to the Pensacola Blue Wahoos of the Class AA Southern League in August,[1] as Reds' general manager Walt Jocketty said the team wanted to "fast track" Stephenson, whom he called "very impressive".[15]

The Reds invited Stephenson to spring training as a non-roster invitee in 2014.[16] The Reds assigned Stephenson to Pensacola. He appeared in the 2014 All-Star Futures Game.[17] He had a 7–10 record and a 4.74 ERA while striking out 140 batters in 136+23 innings pitched with Pensacola.[18] The Reds invited Stephenson to spring training in 2015.[19] He began the season with Pensacola, where he pitched to a 3.68 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 78+13 innings, including a 2.36 ERA in his last ten starts, before he was promoted to the Louisville Bats of the Class AAA International League.[20] After the season, the Reds added him to their 40-man roster.[21]

After competing for a spot in the Reds' starting rotation for Opening Day during spring training in 2016, the Reds optioned him to Louisville to start the season.[22] On April 4, with Homer Bailey beginning the season on the disabled list the Reds added Stephenson to their Opening Day roster.[23] He made his MLB debut on April 7, and was optioned back to Louisville after the start.[24] Stephenson was called up April 19, to make his second start in place of right-hander Alfredo Simon. In his second start, against the Colorado Rockies Stephenson became the first Reds pitcher to complete seven innings up to that point in the 2016 season, allowing just three hits and one earned run while striking out three and walking two. After the game, Stephenson was optioned back to Louisville.[25] In 8 starts for the Reds, he finished 2-3 with a 6.08 ERA in 37 innings.

On July 22, 2017, Stephenson was recalled from Louisville.[26] For the season, in 25 games, 11 starts, Stephenson finished 5-6 with a 4.68 ERA in 84+23 innings. He struck out 86 but walked 53 batters. The following season, he spent the majority of the season in AAA, only making 4 appearances for Cincinnati towards the end of the season.

The 2019 season was Stephenson's most successful to date, but it was as a relief pitcher and not a starting pitcher. He appeared in 57 games, all out of the bullpen, and enjoyed career bests in ERA (3.76), WHIP (1.036), K/9 (11.3), BB/9 (3.3), and H/9 (6.0). Stephenson attributed his recent success to letting go of expectations and focusing on the present.[27] In 2020, Stephenson recorded a 9.90 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 10 innings pitched, as eight of his 11 hits allowed were home runs.[28]

Colorado Rockies

On November 25, 2020, Stephenson and Jameson Hannah were traded to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Jeff Hoffman and Case Williams.[29] In his first season in Colorado, Stephenson posted a 3.13 ERA in 49 games. He struck out 52 batters in 46 innings. He had a 6.04 ERA for the Rockies in 2022 and was designated for assignment on August 25.[30]

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates claimed Stephenson off of waivers on August 27.[31] On January 13, 2023, Stephenson agreed to a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Pirates, avoiding salary arbitration.[32]

Personal life

Stephenson and his wife married in 2017, with fellow Reds pitcher Sal Romano serving as the best man.[33] Robert's mother, Rowena is a Filipino American.[34]


  1. Vilona, Bill (August 17, 2013). "Robert Stephenson has a gift to pitch: Blue Wahoos pitcher makes debut in Pensacola". Pensacola News Journal. Retrieved November 1, 2013. (subscription required)
  2. "Reds tab high school pitcher Robert Stephenson with 27th pick | News". June 6, 2011. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  3. "Reds ink top Draft pick Robert Stephenson | News". August 16, 2011. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  4. "Alhambra High's Robert Stephenson named California's Baseball Player of Year". Contra Costa Times. June 2, 2011. Retrieved May 10, 2012. (subscription required)
  5. Poe, Doug (May 3, 2012). "Reds' No. 1 draft pick offers optimism for current team: A fan's reaction – MLB – Yahoo! Sports". Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  6. "Alhambra's Robert Stephenson continues to impress". August 22, 2010. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  7. "Alhambra High's Robert Stephenson, Bishop O'Dowd's Joe Ross hope to get early phone call in Major League Baseball draft". Contra Costa Times. June 5, 2011. Retrieved May 10, 2012. (subscription required)
  8. "Reds farm system remains strong". Springfield News-Sun. April 16, 2012. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  9. " Stephenson Awaits Pro Debut". April 26, 2012. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  10. "Robert Stephenson Stats, Bio, Photos, Highlights | Stats | The Official Site of Minor League Baseball". February 24, 1993. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
  11. Langsam, Steve (July 21, 2013). "Catching up with Robert Stephenson". Martinez News-Gazette. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  12. Raymond, Jonathan (July 28, 2012). "Stephenson shines in Class A debut | News | The Official Site of Minor League Baseball". Retrieved April 10, 2013.
  13. Rallo, Curt (May 23, 2013). "MWL notes: Stephenson gains steam". Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  14. "Local report: Highly-touted pitching prospect assigned to Blaze". The Bakersfield Californian. July 17, 2013. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  15. Fay, John (August 13, 2013). "Jocketty: No decision yet on calling up Billy Hamilton when roster expands | Cincinnati Reds". Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
  16. "Two top prospects among non-roster additions". Cincinnati Reds. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  17. "Reds' Robert Stephenson struts heat in Futures Game". Cincinnati Enquirer. July 13, 2014. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  18. "Right-handed pitching dominates Reds' top prospect list". Cincinnati Enquirer. January 7, 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  19. "Reds invite 19 non-roster players to big-league camp". Cincinnati Enquirer. January 12, 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  20. Smith, Daren (July 3, 2015). "Reds promote Stephenson to Triple-A: Top prospect making International League debut for Louisville". Retrieved July 4, 2015.
  21. Sheldon, Mark (November 20, 2015). "Reds add three pitching prospects to roster: Move shields Stephenson, Romano, Johnson from Rule 5 Draft". Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  22. "Top prospect Robert Stephenson among latest Reds cuts". Cincinnati Enquirer. March 18, 2016. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  23. Kruth, Cash (April 4, 2016). "Prospect Stephenson added to Reds' roster". Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  24. Rosecrans, C. Trent (April 4, 2016). "Reds call up top prospect Robert Stephenson". Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  25. Rosecrans, C. Trent (April 20, 2016). "Stephenson, second inning lift Reds past Rockies, 4-3". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  26. "Reds's Robert Stephenson: Recalled ahead of Saturday's start". CBS Sports Interactive. July 22, 2017. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  27. Nightengale, Bobby. "Robert Stephenson, pitching well out of Cincinnati Reds' bullpen, lets go of expectations". Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  28. "Colorado Rockies: Where does Robert Stephenson fit for 2021?". November 27, 2020.
  29. "Rox net RHP, top 30 prospect for Hoffman".
  30. "Colorado Rockies transactions". Retrieved August 25, 2022.
  31. "Pirates claim pitcher Robert Stephenson off waivers from Colorado".
  32. "2023 MLB Arbitration Tracker". MLBTradeRumors. Retrieved January 13, 2023.
  33. Clark, Dave. "Cincinnati Reds' Robert Stephenson gets married, with Sal Romano as best man". The Enquirer.
  34. "These Rockies embrace being AAPI role models".
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