Reds: Tyler Stephenson is Cincinnati’s most indispensable player

Apr 17, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds pinch hitter Tyler Stephenson (37) hits a walk-off single. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 17, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds pinch hitter Tyler Stephenson (37) hits a walk-off single. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cincinnati Reds struck gold when they were able to draft Tyler Stephenson 11th overall in the 2015 MLB draft. With Cincinnati electing to non-tender Curt Casali over the winter, it was obvious the Reds decided it was time to go all-in on Stephenson and to slowly prepare him to be the team’s catcher of the future.

At some point, Gold-Glover Tucker Barnhart isn’t getting any younger. Barnhart will turn 31 in January, and catchers have a different set of guidelines when it pertains to wear and tear. Thirty-one in catcher years is about 78-years old. While Barnhart has been productive with the bat so far this season, his production at the plate has slowly been declining the past few years.

Tyler Stephenson needs to be the Reds’ everyday catcher by season’s end.

The 2021 season is a make-or-break campaign for the Reds at the catcher position. The way Cincinnati handles the position this season could reveal how the Reds intend to move forward; Barnhart is signed through this season with a club option for 2022. It’s possible that Cincinnati declines Barnhart’s option for 2022 and the front office lets him walk.

Catcher is the most important position on the field; it’s not even an argument. The catcher is the captain of the defense, he is the one player who can see everything in front of him. He is the reason your pitching staff can succeed or fail, and he’s usually the player who is the heart of the team.

When was it that became commonplace? I can’t answer that question and while defense is one of the most important attributes a catcher can possess, can we please allow catchers to “rake” again? I think Cincinnati has a horse in that stable in Stephenson.

Tyler Stephenson homered in his first major league at-bat. How’s that for making a good first impression? Stephenson has taken advantage of almost every opportunity when he’s been given game action.

The sample size at this point is small, obviously, but the potential for Stephenson is through the roof. While Stephenson’s 20-80 scouting grades don’t jump off the page to suggest future Hall of Famer, scouts are often extremely conservative with these grades and I think it’s safe to say those grades might be too low.

Stephenson is in my opinion is an indispensable player and the Reds have zero latitude to mess up his development. He is the catcher of the future, and has the potential to be an absolute superstar. Stephenson can be a player that can cancel the stigma that catchers can’t be Gold Glovers and Silver Sluggers at the same time.

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Don’t mistake this as a Tucker Barnhart bash. Barnhart is still is a valuable asset to the Reds, but the development of Stephenson needs to be the No. 1 priority. He’s proven he is show-ready, and Cincinnati needs to do all they can to keep Stephenson’s head in the game by getting him as much playing time as possible.