The Cincinnati Reds are riding a six-game winning streak, and it's been due in part to tremendous performances from the bullpen, improved base running, and timely hitting.
While much of the focus of late has been on the young rookies, one of the club's more experienced bats has finally begun to break out.
Tyler Stephenson, who suffered through a myriad of injuries in 2022, has started to assert himself once again as a consistent force in the middle of the Reds lineup.
Tyler Stephenson struggled as the Reds cleanup hitter earlier this season.
Tyler Stephenson's role this season has been vastly different. The 26-year-old was battered and bruised last season and appeared in just 50 games. The Cincinnati Reds employed seven different starting catchers and were determined not to go through that again.
During the offseason, Cincinnati inked two veteran backstops in Curt Casali and Luke Maile with the intention of giving Stephenson a break from behind the plate. The idea was to give Stephenson more reps at first base and as the team's DH with the notion of preventing increased injury to Stephenson while keeping his bat in the lineup.
With the absence of Joey Votto and a lack of production from Wil Myers, Stephenson was viewed as perhaps the biggest power bat in the Cincinnati Reds lineup. But that didn't really materialize early on.
Stephenson's first home run of the season didn't come until May 7th, and at the time, the part-time catcher was hitting .254/.343/.331. The on-base percentage was there, but the power was absent. Stephenson was consistently slotted as the Reds cleanup hitter, but was rarely able to drive in those key runs.
Moving down in the Reds lineup has produced results for Tyler Stephenson.
Matt McLain's call-up during the middle of May caused Reds manager David Bell to rethink the lineup, and while Stephenson still saw time batting fourth in the Cincinnati lineup, he was more often than no batting fifth.
But after Elly De La Cruz broke onto the scene against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 6th, Bell bumped Stephenson even further down in the batting order. Since that time, Stephenson has been nestled into the No. 6 hole and has been producing.
Tyler Stephenson, in the past 10 games, has hit sixth in the batting order nine times. With De La Cruz receiving a day off on Friday, Stephenson batted fifth, but with the superstar infielder expected to return to the Reds lineup on Saturday, fans will likely see the Cincinnati backstop back in the No. 6 hole.
According to FanGraphs, since he's been moving down in the batting order, Stephenson is slashing .308/.333/.462 with a wRC+ of 107. Prior to the move, the Reds catcher was hitting .238/.326/.345 with a wRC+ of 80.
With the impending return of both Joey Votto and Jake Fraley, it'll be interesting to see how the Cincinnati Reds lineup materializes over the next week or so. But one thing's for sure, the Reds need Tyler Stephenson to keep swinging the lumber with the same authority he has for the past week-plus.