With the Reds firmly out of the playoff race, there is little left for Cincinnati fans to look forward to during the 2015 season. But when the calendar turns to September, MLB rosters expand to 40 players, and fans get a chance to take a glimpse into the future. Here are five players to watch come September 1.
Robert Stephenson, RHP
Stephenson, widely considered one of Cincinnati’s top two prospects, has pitched well since his early July promotion to Triple-A Louisville, and is a favorite to get the call-up come September. The 22-year-old righty is 4-2 with a 3.43 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in eight starts. He has 42 strikeouts to 21 walks.
Stephenson grabbed the attention of Reds fans July 28 when he tossed eight scoreless innings and struck out 10. He put together a streak of 15 consecutive scoreless innings from July 22 to August 2, but his ERA took a slight hit this week after he left Wednesday’s start with an apparent injury after just two innings. No word yet on the severity of the injury.
Brandon Finnegan, LHP
It’s been more than two weeks since the Reds acquired Finnegan from Kansas City as part of the Johnny Cueto deal, and those are two weeks Finnegan would likely rather forget. In three starts with Triple-A Louisville, the lefty is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA.
Still, he’s a pretty good bet to make his Reds debut in September. Finnegan has already proved that he can compete at the big-league level. The 22-year-old dazzled at times during Kansas City’s run to the American League Pennant last fall, as he became the first player ever to pitch in the College World Series and the Major League World Series in the same calendar year. In 14 big-league games this season, Finnegan is 3-0 with a 2.96 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP.
John Lamb, LHP
Another product of the Cueto trade, Lamb has been waiting for his major-league debut for a while now. The 25-year-old left-hander finally got the call-up for a July 17 double-header in Kansas City, but didn’t appear in either game and was sent back to Triple-A Omaha the same day. After a shaky debut in Louisville, Lamb has been very good in his two starts since: allowing two runs in 12 innings pitched. He’s 10-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 20 Triple-A starts this season.
Once considered the 11th-best prospect in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus, Lamb struggled following Tommy John surgery in 2011. He regained his command in 2014 and was named to the Triple-A All-Star Game this season.
Yorman Rodriguez, OF
Considered a five-tool talent, Rodriguez made his major-league debut in 2014 when he was one of 10 players added to the big-league club on Sept. 1. Coming straight from Double-A Pensacola, Rodriguez batted a rather forgettable .222 in 29 plate appearances with the Reds. He registered two multi-hit games in seven starts.
Rodriguez was promoted to Cincinnati early last month, but didn’t make an appearance before being sent back down to Louisville prior to the the all-star break. But the trip to Cincinnati wasn’t for naught, as he started in right field for the Futures Game.
Now with Triple-A Louisville, the 22-year-old is slashing .269/.308/.429 in 86 games and will likely rejoin the Reds this September.
Jesse Winker, OF
Winker, considered by many to be the top prospect in the Reds organization, is heating up in Double-A Pensacola. The 21-year-old batted .248 with three home runs and 17 RBI in 60 games prior to the all-star break, but is batting .303 with an OBP .398 and has seven home runs and 23 RBI in the 43 games since. That’s a number that would make him a welcomed addition to the Reds roster. If he is believed to be ready, Winker could make the jump straight from Double-A ball, as Rodriguez did a year ago.
Rob Ogden is a Nuxhall Way contributor. You can follow him on Twitter at @Rob_Ogden.