What would you think about hearing this over the PA system at Great American Ball Park? The first baseman, number 37, Tyler Stephenson. It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? In all seriousness, that may well what fans of the Cincinnati Reds will be hearing later this season.
This will not be a popular take among many Reds fans, but if Tyler Stephenson suffered a concussion in Saturday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati's coaching staff needs to rethink how they organize the lineup over the remainder of the 2022 season.
The Reds have to do whatever it takes to keep Stephenson's bat in the lineup, even if that means protecting him from himself. Stephenson has said in the past that he enjoys being behind the dish, but that may not be in his best interest over the long haul.
The Reds need to platoon Tyler Stephenson with Joey Votto at first base.
Joey Votto is a future Hall of Famer. Despite being 38 years old, Votto is still, at the very least, an average defender at first base. But, the Cincinnati Reds may need to find a way to get both Votto and Tyler Stephenson in the game without allowing the Georgia native to don the tools of ignorance.
While it's yet to be deemed a concussion, Stephenson took a foul ball off his face mask during Saturday's game against the Pirates. Stephenson was lifted in favor of Aramís García. If it truly is a concussion, this will have been the fourth time Stephenson has suffered such an injury in his lifetime and the second time in about the last three weeks.
Stephenson has experience playing first base. The 25-year-old started 17 games there last season and owned a .993 fielding percentage. Allowing Votto, who has one more guaranteed year on his contract, to tutor Stephenson over the next year would offer considerable benefits as well.
When Joey Votto isn't playing first base, he can be the Cincinnati Reds designated hitter. When Tyler Stephenson isn't playing first, he can be the Reds DH. It's not rocket science.
Yes, this will weaken the Reds behind the plate. Aramís García would become Cincinnati's everyday backstop and perhaps a combination of Sandy León or Mark Koloszavy would be the former San Francisco Giants' backup.
But, would you rather have a healthy Tyler Stephenson in the everyday lineup or risk his long-term health by allowing him to suit up behind the dish? This seems like a no-brainer. In addition to keeping Stephenson healthy, it would also provide the Cincinnati Reds with a successor for Joey Votto.