Depth behind the plate could be problematic for the Cincinnati Reds in 2022

Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson (37) looks on.
Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson (37) looks on. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Stephenson looks like the real deal. The Cincinnati Reds feel confident enough in Stephenson's abilities behind the plate that the front office decided to trade Tucker Barnhart to the Detroit Tigers shortly after the 2021 season concluded.

But who'll be Stephenson's backup in 2022? The Reds have several catchers within the organization, but the only other backstop on Cincinnati's 40-man roster has yet to take the field in a major league game. What does the Reds depth look like at catcher behind Tyler Stephenson?

The Cincinnati Reds are thin at catcher behind Tyler Stephenson.

Tyler Stephenson was the Cincinnati Reds first-round pick in 2015, and the former No. 11 overall selection made his big league debut during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Stephenson had an expanded role last season and appeared in 132 games with 65 starts behind the dish and 17 filling in for Joey Votto at first base.

Fans should expect to see a lot more starts for Stephenson in 2022. The 25-year-old logged 740-plus innings donning the tools of ignorance while playing in Double-A during the 2019 season. I would expect to see similar numbers, if not more from Stephenson in 2022.

That still leaves a ton of innings to be filled by another catcher or two; though I can't see Cincinnati carrying three catchers on its 26-man roster. Mark Kolozsvary, one of the Reds top catching prospects, is the only other backstop on the 40-man roster. Kolozsvary spent time with Team USA last season during the Olympics, and appeared in 59 games in the minors last year.

Kolozsvary will remind Reds fans of former catcher Tucker Barnhart. The 26-year-old is a glove-first catcher who calls a good game behind the plate. Last year, Kolozsvary posted a slash line of just .221/.329/.402 split between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville, but a solid wRC+ of 105 and his defensive skills could see the former seventh-round pick as Stephenson's backup.

Who else could be Tyler Stephenson's backup?

The Cincinnati Reds also have some non-roster invitees who'll be part of the conversation to be Tyler Stephenson's backup in 2022. Aramis Garcia and Andrew Knapp have major league experience, but neither is a terrific option behind the plate.

Garcia is a former second-round pick of the San Francisco Giants and was the Conference USA Player of the Year in 2014. Garcia has never lived up to hype, and though he was drafted as a bat-first catcher, the 29-year-old has a career-OPS of just .629.

Knapp is also a former second-round pick. The 30-year-old has never reached his ceiling, but being a switch-hitter will certainly help his prospects of making the Opening Day roster. Last season Reds skipper David Bell platooned Tucker Barnhart and Tyler Stephenson depending on the pitching matchup.

While I don't expect a platoon situation in 2022, having the ability to swing the bat from the left side will give Knapp a leg up on the other catchers. Cincinnati also has one more former second-round pick on the roster in catcher Chris Okey.

Taken in the same draft as Nick Senzel, Okey has never reached the Reds lofty expectations for the now-26-year-old backstop. Okey is well-respected for his ability to call a game, but his offense really lags behind his performance behind the dish.

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The possibility still exists for the Cincinnati Reds to sign another catcher once the MLB lockout is over, but considering that the team is really just looking for backup catcher, there's little need for the front office to hand out anything more than a minor-league contract with an invite to spring training.