Reds rebuild decision No. 2 has been made
All rebuilds have inflection points…..decisions…..forks in the road. Those decisions dictate success and failure.
The Reds faced decision No. 1 at the trade deadline last year…..and for the first time with this ownership group…..they gave Nick Krall a green light to tear things down and then they got out of the way to let him do his thing.
He dealt Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Brandon Drury, Tommy Pham and Tyler Naquin. What he got in return is designed to set this franchise up going forward.
The haul of young, multi talented, high ceiling prospects drew rave reviews around MLB. Now comes the process of developing those prospects into productive ML players.
Decision No. 2 was announced this week…..a ML level decision. David Bell said Tyler Stephenson will catch 65 games…..with a goal of playing him 140 of 162 games….by dividing up the remaining 75 games between 1B and DH. Bell indicated the Reds will have Stephenson catch 4 of every 10 games…..play 3 games in that span at DH, 2 games at 1B and 1 day off.
Stephenson is a core piece of the rebuild puzzle…..he’s a homegrown product that embraces a leadership role and plays a key position. But three DL stints a year ago limited him to just 50 games and prompted questions of what to do to keep him healthy and productive……that starts with the position he plays.
On one hand, a productive catcher is perhaps the most valuable/scarce position in baseball. The Reds are now going to play him at that position for just 65 of 162 games (40.0).
On the other hand, an injured catcher can’t provide value sitting on the IL.
The flexibility to execute this plan comes from a trio of catchers available to be. Krall added veteran catchers Curt Casali and Luke Maile in the offseason.
But the concerns with Decision No. 2 comes on two fronts. Neither Casali, with a lifetime .223 batting average, or Maile, with a lifetime .203 batting average are offensive forces.
Stephenson’s offensive numbers at the catcher position figure to be among the best at the position. At first base, those numbers project more towards middle of the pack.
Things to consider:
The Reds have just two catchers among their Top 30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline: No. 13 Logan Tanner, a 2022 2nd round pick and No. 25 Matheu Nelson, a 2021 selection.
Joey Votto is 39 and playing on the final year of his contract that includes an option for 2023 of $25M or a $7M buyout. There is not a 1B prospects knocking on the ML door.
The current Reds roster is not exactly loaded with offensive weapons.
All things considered: I get the concept of reducing the wear and tear on Stephenson. Only six catchers started more than 100 games behind the plate last season. JT Realmuto has averaged about 121 games a season the last few years in Philadelphia, the most of the Top MLB catchers. The days of Yadier Molina, Salvador Perez and Johnny Bench averaging 130-140+ games a year behind the plate are long over.
I am surprised they plan to play Stephenson just 65 games behind the plate. That’s 97 games to be caught by subpar offensive contributors in Casali and Maile. That doesn't mean that 65 number can't go up, based on circumstances.
In the end, Bell clearly believes a healthy, rested and productive Stephenson over 140 starts at that positional breakdown offers a better lineup more often than the wear/tear/risk of 110+ games behind the plate and likely fewer than 140 total starts.
How about you? Let’s discuss tonight?