Alhambra (Martinez, CA) RHP Robert Stephenson threw a no hitter with 12 strikeouts last week in his first start. Last night, the righty threw his 2ndno-hitter in a row. Fourteen innings into the 2011 season and Stephenson has yet to allow a hit. The righty now has 32 strikeouts with just 2 walks (3 HBP). More importantly, he led the Bulldogs to a 9-0 win over De Anza, giving them a 4-0 start on the season.
An impressive encore thus far to Stephenson’s 2010 season, when he struck out 105 over 83 innings. Coming off a very solid season, Stephenson began to show steady improvement over the course of the summer and fall. He explains “I was throwing nearly all four seams (fastballs) and it seemed pretty straight and easy to hit, so after some advice from a coach at the Tournament of Stars after getting hit around, I started throwing two seam fastballs about 90% of the time.” In spite of throwing more 2-seam fastballs Stephenson averaged the fourth hardest average fastball velocity at the 2010 Area Code Games (93.7 MPH).
Before the learning experience at Tournament of Stars, Stephenson firmly established himself as a big time prospect at the 2010 PG National Showcase at Tropicana Field. After the National, Perfect Game President Jerry Ford said of Stephenson "Most of the top pitchers in the country were at the PG National and Robert was one of the best pitchers we had at that event. Later he was arguably the top pitcher at the Aflac Game." The scouting report from the event notes: "Long lean athletic build, not close to filling out. Big leg raise delivery, 3/4's slot, not much effort on release. Loose and very fast arm, steady 92-93 mph fastball explodes out of his hand, plenty more velo in there, gets some arm side run."
But perhaps the biggest highlight of Stephenson's season came when he got the start for the West team at the 2010 Aflac All-American game. He recalled “the Aflac game to me was the most exciting baseball game I've ever played in.” Though he admits that he was nervous, it didn’t really show, as he held the East without a hit in his two scoreless innings of work. Stephenson continued to work hard at reaching his goal of becoming a successful Major League pitcher, spending the offseason on an intense workout regimen. Spending 3 days per week working with coach Gary Hanks (also his coach with NorCal travel team) on building arm strength and directly targeted strength training. In addition, Stephenson spent two days a week working with former track star Aaron Thigpen on increasing his athleticism and balance. He topped it off with another two days of weight lifting. According to Alhambra Head Coach Jay Heeb, the results are obvious.
Heeb notes that the biggest difference from 2010 to 2011 is the improved command, noting that it now measures up with any other California HS ace he’s seen in recent years. He also noted that Stephenson has shown improved arm strength and balance. Another improvement is the addition of a cutter to his advanced repertoire, which is highlighted by a mid-upper 90’s fastball, which was up to 97 last night according to an anonymous area scout. Stephenson says that his best pitches are his two seam fastball, splitter and his slider. He says that he is now starting to get comfortable with his changeup.
The highest draft pick to ever come out of Alhambra High School was OF Rob Coultis, who was taken in the 6th round in 1970. Stephenson, currently number nine in Perfect Game’s national high school player rankings has a chance to go much higher than that in the 2011 draft.
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