RAPIDS, Iowa — Every baseball player has a story. Some are high
draft picks who soar through the minors and break into the big
leagues without a hiccup along the way. Others are long-shots who
endure the better part of a decade toiling in front of empty stadiums
while suffering through long bus rides and self-doubt.
such as Robert Stock, fit somewhere in between.
ago, Stock was one of the top high school prospects in the country.
In fact, according to one PG scout, Stock might have been the best:
is aggressive and routinely shows a 91-94 mph FB with riding action
at the plate and good life down in the zone. He also possesses a
power downer curve that has plus spin and sharp, late action…Stock
has a surprising feel of his 79-81 mph change-up…On offense, he’s
a left-handed hitter with plus bat speed. He is an excellent
gap-to-gap hitter with power. Stock is one of the very elite ’07
prospects and is a legitimate two-way talent, not only for major D-I
baseball, but also for pro baseball.”
In the 2006
Perfect Game All-American Classic, Stock was the West’s
starting pitcher on a staff that featured Tim Alderson and Blake
Beavan opposite the East’s Madison Bumgarner, Matt Harvey, Rich
Porcello and Michael Main. Stock looks back on that experience with
a blast,” he said. “Getting to play in front of a nation-wide
crowd because it’s on TV, even to this day it’s something I can
Most of the
PG All-Americans returned to high school the following year. But not
Stock. He skipped his senior year of high school — a la Bryce
Harper — and took his two-way talents straight to college, signing
with Southern California.
Stock was a
pitcher, catcher and designated hitter in his three years at USC. His
bat was a fixture in the Trojan lineup and showed improvement as his
slugging percentage increased each season. He pitched 39.2 innings in
a relief role between his freshman and sophomore seasons. During the
summer of 2007, he played with the Cape Cod League’s Cotuit
Kettleers. In his junior season — his last at USC — Stock started
nine games on the mound. In 20 appearances that year, he posted a
2.90 ERA and struck out 86 batters in 77.2 innings.
superior numbers on the mound, Stock made it known that he wanted to
play catcher professionally. The St. Louis Cardinals obliged,
selecting him in the second-round of the 2009 draft.
it’s been a three-year roller-coaster ride. Stock dominated rookie
ball in his first pro season to the tune of .322/.386/.550 with seven
homers in 166 plate appearances. Splitting time between A-ball and
High-A just two years later, he hit .240/.314/.330 with just one long
ball in a limited role.
arrived in spring training to begin the 2012 season, the Cardinals’
brass decided to make a change.
who are in charge of my development sat me down and decided to make
me a pitcher,” he said. “So this year I’ve been giving it
everything I can only having a limited amount of preparation going
into the season.”
Now 22 years old, Stock has struck out 65 batters in 68.2 innings for the Quad City River Bandits (A) in a long-relief role.
admits he’s not as sharp on the mound as he was in college, he’s
working hard to regain his old form. His repertoire hasn’t changed
(he still throws in the low-90s, sometimes creeping into the
upper-90s with a good change-up and developing curve) and neither has
the ultimate goal.
whether he prefers to pitch in a relief or starting role, Stock
smiled and said, “I prefer to be a major leaguer.
really just depends on how my arm responds this year and how my
pitches progress,” he continued. “Obviously, most people would
prefer to be a starter, but not everyone can. We’ll see what
happens come February, 2013.”
turmoil he’s endured, Stock doesn’t have any regrets —
especially not his decision to graduate high school a year early and
enroll at USC.
my three years at USC were some of the best years of my life,
considering the friends you make on the baseball team, the baseball,
the school and the college life,” he said. “And then going on to
play summer ball in the Cape Cod League, that was really — I can’t
see myself missing out on that. I had a wonderful host family. My
brother just got back from visiting my host family that hasn’t
hosted me in years. My mom still talks to their mom all the time. It
was a great experience.”
two younger brothers, Richard and Jacob. Richard was a catcher at
Nebraska before being drafted in the 23rd
round by the Cleveland Indians earlier this summer. Jacob, who’s
also a catcher, plays high school ball in the family’s hometown of
Westlake Village, Calif.
Stock brother plans to attend the Cardinals’ instructional league
in Florida this offseason before returning home, where he plans to
keep working throughout the winter.
this offseason is a good opportunity for us,” Stock said. “Now
that I’m pitching, I can throw a bullpen to Richard. And then
(Jacob) can catch, so Richard can hit. What better way to practice?”
winter of “practice,” it’ll be back to the grind as Stock hopes
to end the final chapter in his minor league story with a big-league
promotion. But if it doesn’t work out, he doesn’t want to look
back with regret.
something I learned from day one,” he said. “I was fortunate
enough to be in big league camp and hear it straight from Mike
Matheny: You give it your all until they pull the uniform off your
back. I’m working really hard; eating right, sleeping right and
practicing intensely. There’s only a small window of opportunity
someone has to make it. I’d hate to look back on years past and
think I didn’t give it all that I could.”