Stephenson was well-regarded as an offensive minded catcher coming into the 2023 season. While his defense, aside from his arm strength, has lagged behind, his skill with a bat in his hands more than made up for his shortcomings.
Stephenson's above-average production at the plate, combined with his lackluster defense, and his injury history, prompted the Reds to begin an experiment with Stephenson during Joey Votto's absence in 2021.
The Reds appear to have ended the Tyler Stephenson experiment at first base.
The Cincinnati Reds, who had Tucker Barnhart on the roster at the time, moved Tyler Stephenson to first base while Joey Votto was nursing a broken thumb during the 2021 season.
After Stephenson, himself, landed on the IL multiple times in 2022, it seemed only fitting to make the move to first base a more permanent one in 2023. Votto's absence following shoulder surgery, and the addition of veteran catchers Luke Maile and Curt Casali, made the move even more appealing.
But fast forward to June of 2023 and it seems the Reds have completely abandoned this experiment. Tyler Stephenson hasn't played first base since April, and David Bell started Kevin Newman at first base on Friday night in place of Spencer Steer. This was Newman's first-career start at first base.
It appears as though the "Tyler Stephenson playing first base experiment" has officially ended. Stephenson will likely continue to split time between catching and slotting in as the Reds designated hitter.
And as puzzling as it is, the Reds continue to carry three catchers on their active roster when they have valuable prospects that are MLB-ready. Votto begins a rehab assignment on Saturday and Elly De La Cruz is crushing baseballs at a torrid pace down at Triple-A. The Reds can't keep those three backstops for much longer, can they?