The Cincinnati Reds Tyler Stephenson is mastering the everyday catcher’s role after the trade of Tucker Barnhart. Stephenson has more than shown everyone that he is their everyday catcher. He has both offensive and defensive skills and has shown his leadership on the field.
Tyler Stephenson is mastering the everyday catcher’s role and through Sunday’s game, Stephenson is hitting .283 in 127 at-bats. He has 36 hits, four home runs, and 24 RBIs. Defensively he has not committed an error in 303 chances with 290 putouts. He also leads the NL in runners caught stealing.
After the 2015 MLB Draft
The Reds selected Stephenson in the first round, 11th overall, of the 2015 MLB Draft. The Reds were hoping he would quickly move through their minor league system. However, injuries—a concussion and a right wrist issue in 2016; then a thumb problem that ended his season in July 2017—slowed his ability to move forward.
Healthy in 2018 and 2019
After battling those injuries over his first two-plus years of pro ball, Stephenson was in good health in 2018 and 2019. He appeared in 211 games and hit 17 home runs with 103 RBIs while playing in Single- and Double-A as well as in the AZ Fall League.
2020 Season Cut-Short
His arrival to MLB was expected to be soon after the 2020 season at Triple-A would begin. The changes to the 2020 MLB season caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, meant that he was instead assigned to the Reds’ alternate training site. There Stephenson continued to work out and keep himself ready in case he was needed. While he would make his MLB debut that season, he was limited to only eight games.
Last season, his rookie season, Stephenson appeared in 132 games for the Reds. He started 65 games at catcher. He also started 17 games at first. Offensively, he hit .286 with 10 home runs, 21 doubles, and 45 RBIs.
Defensively, he did not commit an error while catching. He recorded three defensive runs saved, 22 assists, and four double-plays. Pitchers commented that he communicated really well with them, and in a calm manner, something mainly demonstrated by veteran catchers.
Worked On His Catching Skills
Tyler Stephenson is mastering the everyday catcher’s role. Something that rarely gets brought up about being a catcher is their catching skills. Stephenson has worked with Catching/Third base coach J.R. House for the past two years on his throwing, blocking, receiving, and even his game-calling. Adjustments were made to improve his skills, one of which was repositioning him higher off the ground in the catcher crouch. Doing that helps create a better angle and also allows better footwork.
The Reds organization knew that last year’s starting catcher, Tucker Barnhart, had a $7.5 million option. They also knew they already had the perfect replacement. Barnhart was traded to the Detroit Tigers. Stephenson was going to be the starting catcher and would be counted on to play and do more in 2022.
Everyone in the Reds organization knew that Stephenson would grow into their regular starting catcher and that he has All-Star ability. He still has some techniques to work on, as he needs to work on being a better hitter and cut down on his strikeouts. He also needs to work on connecting with breaking-ball pitches. With time and his willingness to learn he should have no problem adjusting.
Stephenson is entering the prime of his career. While only into his second year, the Reds feel confident enough in his abilities behind the plate to make him their everyday catcher. Although the season has not gone well for Cincinnati, he is showing that he can manage the game and the Reds’ young pitching staff. If he continues playing as he has and can remain healthy, Stephenson will only get better as he gains experience. This not only gives Reds fans something to cheer about, but it also gives the Reds something to build on.