Welcome to Matt Wisler 2.0. While we still haven’t seen a lot of Wisler since he was acquired by the Mariners earlier this month, Jerry Dipoto clearly has a type. Like Wisler, Robert Stephenson is a former first-round pick who couldn’t make it work as a starter and has now shifted into a full-time relief role. The role itself was, in essence, forced upon Stephenson due in part to his lack of minor league options this year.
Through 37.2 innings pitched this season, Stephenson has posted an underwhelming 5.02 ERA, though his 3.51 FIP suggests he’s been much better. Stephenson has three pitches in his arsenal but relies heavily on his fastball and slider combination, both of which he uses a roughly equal amount. The control has been poor for most of the year, which is why Stephenson currently sports a 3.82 BB/9.
The one thing Stephenson really has going for himself are the strikeouts. His current K/9 mark of 12.19 ranks 45th amongst all Major League relievers and would be the second-highest in the Mariners’ bullpen, right behind Austin Adams.
Stephenson is under contract through the 2022 season, so he fits the Mariners’ timeline if he actually were to turn into something for them. That’s not to say he hasn’t been solid this year, which he has, and is why FanGraphs has him worth half a win already. But he’s almost 27 with no minor league options, so the return will be limited if the Reds dabble in talks for him.