Cincinnati Reds: Five bold predictions for the 2020 season

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 14: Jesse Winker #33 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 14: Jesse Winker #33 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Reds
MESA, AZ – OCTOBER 14: Tyler Stephenson #36 of the Glendale Desert Dogs (Cincinnati Reds) (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

4. Tyler Stephenson will NOT make his Reds debut this season.

This prediction has a chance to blow up in my face rather quickly. The Reds currently have Curt Casali and Tucker Barnhart plugged in as the team’s catching tandem, and Kyle Farmer can don the tools of ignorance as well. Tyler Stephenson made a great impression during the Arizona Fall League and continued to play well during spring training in Goodyear. I just can’t see him making the bigs just yet.

As I write this, I’m keenly aware that if Barnhart or Casali go down with injury, or test positive for COVID-19, the chances of Stephenson being promoted to the majors increases exponentially. That said, Cincinnati also seems to have a lot of faith in non-roster invitee Francisco Peña.

Peña is on stranger to the big leagues. The 30-year-old backstop has played five seasons at the major-league level, playing for the Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants and, most recently, the St. Louis Cardinals. While Peña is not necessarily an offensive threat, the catcher position is one where you can sacrifice defense for offense.

Make no mistake, if this were a 162-game season, I’d expect Tyler Stephenson to be on the team’s active roster during September, if not before. However, a shortened-season is not one that screams development, which Stephenson needs more of.

The Reds top catching prospect has not played above Double-A, and though he has potential with both his glove and his bat, the Reds depth at the position allows them to continue to bring Stephenson along slowly. However, one injury could offer both Stephenson or José García the chance to shine.