Tyler Stephenson's slump warrants shakeup in Reds catching hierarchy

Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson has been well below-average for nearly the entire season.

Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson
Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson / Rob Leiter/GettyImages

There's no easy way to get around this any longer - Tyler Stephenson's slump has reached the point where he needs to be replaced by Luke Maile as the Cincinnati Reds No. 1 catcher.

I've heard all the reasons for Stephenson's lack of execution this season, and some of them are very compelling. The juggling of positions during spring training, recovering from shoulder surgery, and many others. But the numbers are just overwhelming at this point.

Since July 1st, Stephenson is hitting an abysmal .200/.321/.289. While the batting average is not good, Stephenson's 14.2-percent walk-rate during that time helps to make up for his lack of contact. But it's that last number that's just unacceptable.

Tyler Stephenson's slump warrants shakeup in Reds catching hierarchy.

Tyler Stephenson, to his credit, has been available for every single game this season. After being placed on the injured list three separate times in 2022 and missing all but 50 games, the former first-round has stayed healthy so far this season.

While the old saying says that the best ability is avail-ability, that doesn't hold true if you don't produce. Stephenson's production this season has been dreadful. Once thought to be a potential successor to Joey Votto at first base, that plan was abandoned about a month into the season.

Stephenson hasn't logged a single inning at first base since April 30th. But more troubling than his inability to adjust to playing a new position has been his lack of production at the plate. Stephenson has gone from batting in the cleanup spot to routinely occupying the No. 8 hole in David Bell's lineup.

Perhaps more troubling, however, has been Stephenson's subpar defense. After throwing out 27-percent of would-be base stealers in 2022, that number has dropped to 22.4-percent this season. According to FanGraphs, the 27-year-old has -5 defensive runs saved this season.

Stephenson's ability to frame a pitch has been virtually nonexistent. According to Baseball Savant, his -5 catcher framing runs ranks 52nd out of 59 backstops. That puts him in the bottom 10 percentile of all Major League Baseball.

While Tyler Stephenson has minor league options remaining, that seems like an unlikely route. However, Luke Maile should be receiving the lion's share of starts for the remainder of the season.

Curt Casali is currently on a rehab assignment in Triple-A Louisville, and will likely return to the Cincinnati Reds lineup once roster expand from 26 to 28 players next month.

I'm not sure what's next for Tyler Stephenson, and the Reds really don't have any young replacements in the minor leagues who anywhere close to major league-ready. This is a very difficult situation, but the Reds can't keep running Stephenson onto the field as the primary catcher.