Tucker Barnhart is the most unheralded player on this year’s Reds team

May 7, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Wade Miley (22) hugs catcher Tucker Barnhart (16) after throwing a no-hitter. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
May 7, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Wade Miley (22) hugs catcher Tucker Barnhart (16) after throwing a no-hitter. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Lost in all the celebration from last night’s no-hitter from Cincinnati Reds starter Wade Miley is the brilliance of catcher Tucker Barnhart. Too many times, a pitcher’s battery mate is given second billing. Barnhart’s been an exemplary catcher for sometime now, and it’s high time the rest of Major League Baseball takes notice.

The last Reds pitcher to throw a no-hitter was Homers Bailey in 2013. His catcher for that game was another unheralded player in Ryan Hannigan. Bailey threw 109 pitches en route to a 3-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants on July 2, 2013.

Tucker Barnhart is the Reds most underrated player.

When you think of this year’s Cincinnati Reds team, who comes to mind? Of course, Jesse Winker has been the team’s best player to this point of the season. It seems as though the Reds left fielder is mashing everything that comes his way. Winker leads the team with a .354 batting average and 1.040 OPS.

Of course you have to mention the play of Nick Castellanos. After bursting out of the gates during the 2020 season, Castellanos fell apart over the second half of the pandemic-shortened season. This season, Castellanos looks to be making amends and is reminding the baseball world of why the Reds signed him to a four-year/$64M contract. Castellanos is hitting .321/.356/.643.

You’ve also got to look at the early-season play of Tyler Naquin and Tyler Stephenson. Naquin, who was signed to a minor-league deal over the offseason, has an .864 OPS through the first month-plus, and the rookie Stephenson has 16 hits in 19 games and has looked like anything but a first-year player.

However, lost in the shuffle has been the stellar play of Tucker Barnhart. This was assumed by many to be Barnhart’s final season in the Queen City, as Tyler Stephenson has been dubbed the “catcher of the future”. Barnhart has a $7.5M team option heading into the winter.

Tucker Barnhart’s team-option is starting to look like a bargain.

Barnhart is under contract this season for $3.75M. That is a steal of a deal for the Cincinnati Reds. A 10th round draft pick back in 2008, Barnhart signed a four-year/$16M contract following his Gold Glove season of 2017.

Last season, Barnhart won his second Gold Glove, becoming only the second catcher in Cincinnati Reds history to do so. The other is Hall of Famer Johnny Bench. No, I’m not putting Barnhart in the same category as the greatest catcher or all-time, but it’s an impressive feat nonetheless.

Barnhart has looked like anything but a player ready to allow the young buck to take over and ride off into the sunset, slashing .296/.367/.507 with three home runs and 11 RBIs. While most of Barnhart’s starts come versus right-handed pitchers, the former switch-hitter is 3-for-10 against left-handers this season.

The Cincinnati faithful have always supported Tucker Barnhart for the defensive-minded catcher he is. But, like fans oftentimes will do, Reds Country has always been hungry to see a bat-first backstop. Tyler Stephenson fits that mold, but given Barnhart’s offensive numbers this season, it’s going to be very hard for the Reds to move on from the veteran catcher heading into the offseason.

Next. Miley's no-hitter aided by reshuffled infield

We’ll allow the rest of the 2021 season to play out, but from what we’ve seen to this point, Tucker Barnhart has been the Cincinnati Reds most underrated player. In fact, that’s a title you could argue he’s held since he broke into the big leagues.