Tyler Stephenson is rated as the 9th best catching prospect in baseball. At least that’s if you look at the Top 10 catching prospect list that was released by MLB Pipeline as they continue to work their way through the “top prospects by position” lists. The Cincinnati Reds catching prospect made his Major League debut in 2020 and his impact was immediately felt. He came off of the bench to pinch hit in the bottom of the 7th inning and homered. In the next inning he added a single, going 2-2 in his debut.
His debut on July 27th was the only time he would see action in the Major Leagues in the first six weeks of the year. He returned to the team after spending time at Prasco Park with the Reds at their alternate site on September 10th. A few days later Tyler Stephenson provided some pinch hitting heroics as he came out of the dugout to pinch hit for Shogo Akiyama with a runner on in the bottom of the 7th of a double header in a tie game. The right-handed hitting catcher smashed a walk-off home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates on the second pitch of the at-bat.
In total, Tyler Stephenson only played in eight games and he only had 20 total trips to the plate during the 2020 season. What he did in those 20 plate appearances was crush the ball. The catcher posted a .294/.400/.647 line with two of his five hits going over the fence. During the 2019 season we saw Stephenson spend his entire season in Double-A Chattanooga where he hit .285/.372/.410 before playing in the Arizona Fall League. In his time out in Arizona he played in 14 games, including the Fall Stars game, and hit .353/.421/.549 over that stretch.
Cincinnati went ahead this offseason and essentially cleared the way for Tyler Stephenson to become one of the two catchers on the big league roster moving forward. The team non-tendered Curt Casali, making him a free agent and clearing the way for Stephenson to join two-time Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart as the Reds catching duo.
Tyler Stephenson is known more for his bat than for his defense. Part of that is that his bat stands out at the catcher position – he’s got a chance to hit for both average and for power, especially at the position. But part of that is that injuries earlier in his professional career limited his time behind the plate and he developed the defensive side of his game a little slower because of that. The last few years, though, he’s been healthy and he’s made big strides behind the plate with his defense. His plus arm strength has always stood out, but he’s rounded out the other aspects of his catching in recent seasons.