Unconventional defensive versatility will allow this Reds prospect to debut in 2024

Wait, he plays where?
Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee catcher Michael Trautwein
Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee catcher Michael Trautwein / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

The Cincinnati Reds have struggled to field an above-average offensive catcher over the years. There have been moments where Tyler Stephenson looked like that guy, but injuries have slowed Stephenson's development. While the former first-round pick has hit the ball well this season, until recently he doesn't have much to show for it. Stephenson ranks among the best in baseball in terms of barrel rate, but is only hitting .222 on the season.

The catcher position, however, is always one where the manager will forgo an elite bat in order to have a backstop that can call a good game and play above-average defense. But what if there's a catcher who can play above-average defense at multiple positions?

The Reds have that in Michael Trautwein. A 13th-round draft pick in 2021, Trautwein was assigned to Triple-A Louisville to begin the 2024. The 24-year-old sets up both behind the plate and on the outfield grass. That defensive versatility could see Trautwein work his way up to the majors this season.

Unconventional defensive versatility will allow this Reds prospect Michael Trautwein to debut in 2024

Since the 2024 season began, Trautwein has started games at catcher, in left field, and as the Louisville Bats designated hitter. While his slash line is nothing to write home about, the fact that the Reds have a prospect who can play two different positions with one of them being a catcher is an advantage that few other organizations posses.

Former Reds prospect Yasmani Grandal used to play behind the plate and also go down the line to first base on occasion. Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Daulton Varsho played both catcher and the outfield while he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but hasn't set up behind the plate since 2022.

If the Reds lose a catcher to injury, Trautwein could easily get the call. The Bats' current roster features Trautwein, P.J. Higgins, and Austin Wynns. If Trautwein's bat can be somewhat average, the former Northwestern Wildcat could be called up to the big leagues later this season.

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