Stephan was a third-round draft pick by the Yankees in 2017. After spending the majority of last season in Double-A, he is back in Trenton to begin the year. The 23-year old is off to a tough start this season. Across nine starts and 33.1 innings, Stephan has a 5.40 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 41/21. I saw him pitch on June 9 vs. Erie.
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Stephan has prototypical starting pitcher size and limited physical projection left in his muscular and athletic frame. Even as a starter, the 23-year old throws exclusively from the stretch. He has a low three-quarters arm slot and a short-arm action. Despite seeing his best start of the season to date, it seems his stuff has regressed from last year. His fastball sat between 88-to-92 mph and lacked its typical above-average sinking action. Stephan threw fairly consistent strikes but struggled to command the pitch to spots within the zone. The go-to off speed pitch is a slider, though like his heater, the pitch lacked the power and action it has shown in past looks. The changeup came in at 85-86 mph, seldomly used and still a distant third speed.
Stephan’s struggles this season are troubling, more because of how his stuff has backed up than the actual stat line itself. He looked like a potential back-of-the-rotation starter in 2018 if you projected more changeup, but it’s now appearing more likely he heads to the bullpen long term. There’s a chance he’s a FV 35+ up/down type there if the two-pitch mix can’t take steps forward in short stints. Without either his previous velocity or slider coming back, it’s tough to see Stephan finishing better than a FV 40 middle reliver, though potentially one that could pitch numerous innings.