Cincinnati Reds: 3 breakout hitters who will emerge in 2021

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 18: A detail of the Franklin batting gloves worn by Yasiel Puig #66 of the Cincinnati Reds. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 18: A detail of the Franklin batting gloves worn by Yasiel Puig #66 of the Cincinnati Reds. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /
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Tyler Stephenson #37 of the Cincinnati Reds rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run.
CINCINNATI, OH – JULY 27: Tyler Stephenson #37 of the Cincinnati Reds rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Tyler Stephenson, Reds catcher

It’s a bit unfair to call for Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson to have a breakout season when the 24-year-old has just 17 major league at-bats, but Cincinnati’s front office seems to have a great deal of confidence in the Georgia-native’s ability or else Curt Casali would still be on the roster. Stephenson sure made a believer out of the Cincinnati faithful last season.

It’s a small sample size to be sure, but Stephenson looks like the Reds best option in 2021 to be team’s biggest offensive upgrade. While the front office set out in the offseason to add a starting shortstop, all the best free agents have chosen to spurn the Reds and Cincinnati is left with Kyle Farmer as the presumed starter heading into Opening Day.

With the majority of the 2020 roster returning, the only offensive upgrade appears to be an internal one. Stephenson sat behind Casali and Tucker Barnhart last season, appearing in just eight games with four starts behind the plate. Last season was an audition and Stephenson passed with flying colors.

The question entering spring training is; how long until Tyler Stephenson usurps Tucker Barnhart as the starting catcher? I don’t think we’ll see an immediate change, and it may not come until next season. Barnhart is a phenomenal defensive catcher, as evidenced by his two Gold Gloves. However, this year’s team needs a boost at the plate, and Stephenson’s strength is with the bat in his hands.

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It’ll be interesting to see how David Bell allows the competition between Stephenson and Barnhart to play out. I fully expect Stephenson to get the lion’s share of starts when a left-handed pitcher is on the bump, with Barnhart seeing the majority of right-handed starters. Will Stephenson’s success from 2020 carry over to 2021? Reds Country sure hopes so.