Evaluating the Reds options behind the plate for the 2022 season

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

The Cincinnati Reds catchers underwent a bit of a transition in 2021. Tucker Barnhart, the team's longtime backstop saw a dramatic decrease in his playing time last season, and rookie catcher Tyler Stephenson garnered a boatload of playing time.

This always seemed to be the plan. The Reds made the decision last offseason to non-tender Curt Casali and felt comfortable heading into 2021 with the left-handed hitting Barnhart and the right-handed hitting Stephenson as the receiving combo behind the dish.

Who will backup Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson in 2022?

Almost as soon as the World Series concluded, the Reds made the decision to move on from Tucker Barnhart rather than pay the two-time Gold Glove winner the $7.5M team option he was owed for the 2022 season.

Barnhart was shipped to the Detroit Tigers and will be the primary backstop in the Motor City. In return, Cincinnati received third base prospect Nick Quintana. The University of Arizona product brings power and defense to the Reds organization.

That deal was not about Quintana, but about shedding Barnhart's 2022 salary while at the same time paving the way for Tyler Stephenson to become the team's unquestioned starting catcher. After the year that Stephenson put up in 2021, he's very deserving of that role.

Stephenson played in 132 games, including a handful of starts at first base, and slashed .286/.366/.431 with 10 homers, 45 RBIs, 2.0 fWAR, and a wRC+ of 111. For a rookie catcher, that is flat-out getting it done.

But it's folly to believe that Stephenson will don the tools of ignorance and setup behind the plate for 162 games next season. So, with Barnhart now in Detroit, who will Cincinnati turn to as Stephenson's backup in 2022?

One option is Mark Kolozsvary. After spending his summer split between Team USA, Double-A Chattanooga, and Triple-A Louisville, Kolozsvary did receive a promotion to the Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster and was called up to the big leagues. However, he never set foot on the diamond and still has zero ABs in the majors.

Kolozsvary is a former seventh-round pick. Small in stature (5'8"), Kolozsvary is a defense-first catcher. He has a plus-arm and plays well above-average defense behind the plate. His bat came around a little in 2021, hitting .233/.341/.438 in 40 games at Double-A Chattanooga.

The Reds also signed two catchers to minor-league contracts with invites to spring training. Andrew Knapp and Aramis Garcia will battle it out this spring for a spot on the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster.

I'd give the advantage to Knapp, due in most part to the fact that he's a switch-hitter. The former Philadelphia Phillies' backstop has a career-OPS of .636, but that number dipped to .429 last season while hitting .152 at the plate.

Garcia, a former second-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2014 will be given a chance to make the squad as well. Garcia was the Conference USA Player of the Year in 2014. Though he has just 193 career at-bats and a lifetime batting average of .218, Garcia is viewed as more of offensive-minded catcher.

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The one thing that is certain is Tyler Stephenson's standing as the unquestioned starting catcher for the Cincinnati Reds next season. After the MLB lockout concludes, don't be shocked to see Cincinnati's front office scour the rubble looking for another catcher to join the team in Goodyear.