For two straight years Tyler Stephenson had battled injuries and lost time on the field. He headed into the 2018 season hoping to put that behind him and remain on the field from start to finish. The Cincinnati Reds sent the catcher to join the Daytona Tortugas to begin his season in the pitcher friendly Florida State League.
To suggest that the 2018 season started well for Tyler Stephenson would be an understatement. He began the year with a 7-game hitting streak, hitting .435 with an OPS over 1.200 in the first week of the season. While the rest of the month slowed down from there, he hit .315 in the remaining 14 games with more walks, eight, than strikeouts, seven. In the 21 games played in April the catcher hit .351/.440/.519 with 11 walks and 11 strikeouts in 91 plate appearances. He also racked up five doubles, a triple, and two home runs.
The hot start in April carried over into May. In the first four games of the month Tyler Stephenson went 5-13 with five walks and four strikeouts. Things went south after that, though. Over the next 11 days he would go into a big slump, hitting just .125 with 12 strikeouts in eight games. Stephenson would break out of that slump for a brief moment, going 5-11 with three doubles from May 16th through May 18th. But another slump followed for the remainder of the month. He would finished with a .226/.290/.369 line in 93 plate appearances. His walk rate was solid during the month, but his strikeout rate exploded. After striking out just 11 times in April, in two more plate appearances during May he struck out 29 times.
The slump continued into June. Over the first seven games Tyler Stephenson hit just .130. He did draw five walks in that time, but the hits weren’t falling when he made contact. Things improved from there, though in limited time thanks to the All-Star break and a whole lot of rain. Stephenson played in just nine games between June 11th and the end of the month. He would OPS .766 the rest of the way with just six strikeouts in 37 trips to the plate. Overall the month was a down one for Stephenson. He hit .200/.303/.382 with eight walks and 14 strikeouts in 66 plate appearances. The strikeout rate came down quite a bit, but the hits still weren’t finding the grass when he did make contact.
July kicked off in the right kind of way for Tyler Stephenson. Over the first week he hit .316 with three extra-base hits. The next week the extra-base hits disappeared, but he hit .370 as he continued to rack up the hits. The third week was essentially an all-or-nothing kind of week. On July 19th Stephenson went 4-5 with two home runs. The rest of the week saw him go 2-19. On the 23rd and 24th he’d go 2-4 in both games, but went 1-for the final week of the month over six games. The month had some ups-and-downs, but it was a rebound month. Over 109 plate appearances he would hit .284/.358/.421 with 10 walks and 25 strikeouts. He would also add four doubles and three homers.
The first game of August was a good start to the month. Tyler Stephenson went 3-4 with a double, walk and he drove in two runs. But things didn’t go nearly as well the rest of the week as he had just two more hits in the other five games. Things weren’t much better the next week as he went 3-14 over four games. That slump continued the rest of the way. In the final two-and-a-half weeks of the regular season he would go just 5-40 (.125) with six walks and nine strikeouts. It was a tough finish to the year. Over the final 23 games, Tyler Stephenson hit just .169/.286/.260 with eight walks and 19 strikeouts in 91 plate appearances.
For all 2018 Season Reviews and Scouting Reports – click here (these will come out during the week throughout the offseason).
Tyler Stephenson Spray Chart
Tyler Stephenson Scouting Report
Hitting | As you can see in the spray chart above, Tyler Stephenson can and does use the entire field. In fact, he goes the other way more than he pulls the ball. His hit tool is average to slightly above-average.
Power | Power is the offensive calling card for Tyler Stephenson, at least when looking at the raw tools. He’s got above-average to plus raw power, but to tap into it he’ll likely have to pull the ball a little bit more.
Speed | As a catcher he’s not expected to have much speed. Which is good, because he’s a below-average runner – though for the position he’s plenty fast enough.
Defense | Catching is the most important aspect of defense in the game. Stephenson has made steady improvements over the years. Some scouts are concerned that his size will be a deterrent on framing certain pitches. He’s a quiet receiver, and his athleticism behind the plate stands out. He will need to continue to make improvements defensively.
Arm | The pure arm strength is above-average. At times, though, the pop times don’t play out that way as there are times that the point of catch to throw isn’t as quick as other times.
Long term Tyler Stephenson has more of an “offensive first” catcher kind of feeling to him. Perhaps, though, that’s more due to the fact that if things go right for him his bat will stick out quite a bit on the catching landscape. While the overall defense may be a tad below-average for Stephenson in the future, he should be able to remain at the position and more than hold his own. In 2018 he was able to stay on the field and the reps he was able to get were valuable and it showed as the improvements came. In nearly twice as many innings in 2018 as 2017 he had two fewer passed balls. He also threw out a higher rate of attempted runners, throwing out 25% during the season.
Still, with the potential to hit for a quality average and 20+ homers at the catching position is what gives him All-Star potential in the future. Catchers, in general, aren’t big offensive contributors. Ones that have a chance to hit will stand out, and that’s what stands out with Tyler Stephenson. He’s got big offensive potential for the position to go along with the ability to remain at the position from a defensive standpoint.
Longest Home Run of the Year
428 Feet on July 19th.
Interesting Stat on Tyler Stephenson
He walked 20 times with just 23 strikeouts against lefties, but struggled to hit for power against opposite handed pitching – slugging just .346 against them on the year.