The Cincinnati Reds called up #3 overall prospect Tyler Stephenson from the Prasco Park roster on Sunday afternoon. The series of events that led to it aren’t what anyone involved was hoping for, as Stephenson is taking the place on the roster of Mike Moustakas. Cincinnati’s second baseman woke up this morning and wasn’t feeling well and was placed on the injured list – not the 10-day injured list – which is worth noting because that designation seems to imply it’s the COVID-19 injured list. To be placed on that doesn’t require a positive test, merely showing symptoms. There is no time requirement for the stay on the list.
For Tyler Stephenson, if you had said that he would make his debut at the end of July back in February, it would have made plenty of sense. He was likely to begin the year in Triple-A Louisville, and as the top position prospect in the organization he was on the brink of the big leagues. As a catcher, with how the position tends to go with regards to guys getting banged up behind the plate, he was always a call away for 2020. But then things went all 2020 and the season was shut down before we got it started.
The 2019 season for Tyler Stephenson ended on a high note. Over the final five weeks of the minor league season Stephenson hit .361/.434/.556 for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. He then went out to the Arizona Fall League where he kept that going for the next month, hitting .353/.421/.549 in 14 games – including the Fall Stars game.
Catcher Tucker Barnhart is on the paternity leave list for Cincinnati right now after he and his wife welcomed a new member of their family on Saturday evening. He could come back on Monday, I believe. That could mean that the stay could be short for Stephenson in the Major Leagues for now. Of course it doesn’t necessarily mean that, either. With Mike Moustakas on the injured list for the time being, Kyle Farmer may not be viewed as much as that third catcher as he may be the right-handed hitting side of the second base platoon that may develop until Moustakas returns.
In the minors last season, Tyler Stephenson lowered his strikeout rate. He’s always had a quality walk rate. When it comes to the offensive side of things, the area where Stephenson needs to tap into the most is his power. He’s got above-average raw power, but his home run totals haven’t shown that in the minor leagues to this point. When he does show his power, though, he can show it to all parts of the field. We got a glimpse of his opposite field power earlier this month in the intrasquad scrimmages as he put one into the seats in right-center.
Behind the plate, Tyler Stephenson has shown big improvements in the last two seasons. A lot of that may just come down to the fact that he’s been healthy, able to stay on the field, and get the necessary reps to continue to develop. Early in his career he struggled with stay healthy, dealing with a variety of injuries along the way that kept him off of the field more than you would prefer to see. He’s got a strong arm behind the plate, and he’s solid in the other aspects of the game behind the plate.
The Reds were preparing 2020 with Tyler Stephenson in mind. The organization included Stephenson on all of the big league calls with the catchers and pitchers to allow him to be as caught up as possible on everything with the pitching staff and coaching staff as to what it was they were looking to do. During spring training, and in Summer Camp, Stephenson was spending plenty of time catching everyone as he continued to try and familiarize himself with what everyone throws, what they like to throw in what situations – just building a catalog of everything a catcher needs to know about their pitchers.