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Reds tab high school power arm with 27th pick

Reds tab high school power arm with 27th pick

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Reds tab high school power arm with 27th pick
CINCINNATI -- A high school kid that pitched back-to-back no-hitters this season could be joining a team that had the only Major Leaguer to throw consecutive no-hitters.

No chance that the Reds are expecting those Johnny Vander Meer types of performances from Robert Stephenson, but he was someone the organization was pleased to have landed nonetheless. The 18-year-old right-hander was their first-round pick with the 27th overall selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft on Monday evening.

"He's an outstanding high school projection pitcher with a very loose, live arm," Reds senior director of amateur scouting Chris Buckley said. "We saw him as high as 98 [mph] this year. He's going to fill out, get stronger."

The selection of Stephenson bucks a Reds trend from recent years, as four of their previous five first-rounders were taken out of college.

From Alhambra High School in Martinez, Calif., Stephenson is the first high school player to be taken in the first round by Cincinnati since catcher Devin Mesoraco in 2007, and its first prep pitcher picked there since Homer Bailey in '04.

Stephenson's season began with the back-to-back no-hitters, and in 13 regular-season games for Alhambra, he posted a 7-2 record and 1.33 ERA with 132 strikeouts, 23 walks and 29 hits allowed over 64 innings. He was named the San Jose Mercury News' Gatorade California Baseball Player of the Year and was rated by Baseball America as the 25th-best prospect in this year's Draft.

"I was out there about two weeks ago and he lost a no-hitter around the sixth inning," Buckley said. "I saw him pitch three times this year. To get him in the first round, we obviously liked him a lot. He's got very good upside, good projection to his frame. He throws hard now. He should throw a little harder as most high school kids do as they get bigger and stronger."

Like Bailey, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Stephenson has the power arm going for him. Besides the fastball, he can throw a slider, curveball and changeup.

"He might have an arm similar to Homer's, but not as polished," Buckley said. "Homer went way up at the top of the first round, and Robert is down towards the bottom."

Stephenson will have some leverage during contract negotiations with the Reds since he also has a commitment to the University of Washington. The deadline for all 2011 Draft picks to be signed is Aug. 15, or clubs lose the rights.

As for the likelihood the Reds can successfully sign Stephenson, that remains to be seen.

"We'll see. We just picked him 10 minutes ago," Buckley said.

The 27th pick represented the Reds' lowest first-round pick in franchise history. Because they were way down the list, it was tougher for Cincinnati to know who it might select. Many of the coveted players were already off the board before it was the Reds' turn.

"We missed some, for sure," Buckley said. "The good thing about being at 27 is you have a good big league team, but there were some players we didn't get."

Among past players selected No. 27 overall, there have been a few to reach the Majors, including Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello (2007), A's pitcher Joey Devine ('05, Braves) and former Reds pitcher Pete Harnisch, who was taken 27th by the Orioles way back in 1987.

Stephenson was the only selection the Reds made on Monday, because the club has no first-round compensation picks. On the second day of the Draft, the Reds' second-round pick will be No. 84 overall.

Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft resumes at noon ET on Tuesday on MLB.com, where fans will receive exclusive coverage of Days 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player.

You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["first-year_player_draft" ] }
{"content":["first-year_player_draft" ] }
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