Bleacher Report misses mark on Reds’ best bounce-back candidate for 2024

The Reds need Tyler Stephenson to bounce back in 2024.

Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson
Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

Bleacher Report's Biggest Bounce-Back Candidate for the Cincinnati Reds is Frankie Montas. Now that's not the worst choice. Montas pitched in just one game for the New York Yankees in 2023, then signed a $16 million deal with the Reds this offseason.

The Reds are hopeful that Montas is worth every penny and can be the team's frontline starter in 2024. Cincinnati's coaching staff are also high on Montas' leadership qualities, and believe he can be a tremndous mentor for young players like Hunter Greene and Graham Ashcraft.

But calling Montas a bounce-back candidate is bit disingenuous. Montas' 2023 season was all but lost due to injury, not poor performance. The Reds player who really needs a bounce-back campaign in 2024 is not Montas, but his battery mate Tyler Stephenson.

Bleacher Report misses mark on Reds’ best bounce-back candidate for 2024

If Montas gives the Reds 10-plus wins, 150-plus innings, and helps keep the bullpen well-rested, that's all Cincinnati needs out of their prized free agent signee in 2024. Anything else is a bonus. While Montas was a nice pickup, the development of Reds young starters like Greene, Ashcraft, and Abbott will be key for the rotation's success.

But Stephenson has to bounce-back following a horrific campaign in 2023 that saw the Reds' catcher lose his power and even his eye at the dish. Stephenson's slugging percentage dropped from .482 in 2022 to .378 in 2023. Was that due to his recovery from shoulder surgery? Reds fans are hopeful that's the case.

Stephenson rotated between first base and catcher while also acting as the Reds' designated hitter through the first month of the 2023 season. After it became obvious that first base was not his forte, Stephenson logged most of his at-bats at DH. Once Curt Casali went on the IL midway through the season, Stephenson then began to split time behind the plate with Luke Maile.

There's no third catcher on the 40-man roster this season, so Stephenson is the unquestioned QB1 once again. The Reds need Stephenson to bounce back in 2024. The backstop was routinely batting eighth and ninth in the lineup last season. Cincinnati needs Stephenson's bat to find a home batting sixth or higher during the upcoming season.

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