Tyler Stephenson was one of the bright spots of a tepid Reds offense that contributed to them finishing 62-100 and securing their first 100-loss season since 1982. The trouble was the Reds only called upon Stephenson in 50 games last year, and getting a full season out of their young catcher will be a huge boost to their lineup in 2023 and beyond.
As Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports, the Reds are looking to utilize Stephenson in 140-150 games in 2023, but the majority of those appearances could come at designated hitter to try and protect his body from the rigors of catching. He did, after all, hit .319/.372/.482 with six home runs across 183 plate appearances so it’s no surprise that the Reds are trying to figure out the best way to get a full season’s worth of that offense.
The Reds have signed Curt Casali and Luke Maile to their roster and plan to carry three catchers throughout 2023, and Nightengale writes that the team could look to use Stephenson as a catcher twice a week, which would equate to 54 games over the course of the season, with Casali and Maile handling the rest.
Here’s some more bits and pieces from around baseball:
- Joey Meneses was a revelation for the rebuilding Nationals in 2022, slashing .324/.367/.563 with 13 home runs over 240 plate appearances in his age-30 rookie campaign. As the Talk Nats podcast revealed, the Nats tried to sign Meneses after the 2019 season but he opted to go to Japan instead. At the time, Japan was likely a far more financially appealing option for Meneses given he would’ve been looking at another minor league deal had he stayed in the States.
- The A’s are planning to use Jesus Aguilar at both first base and designated hitter in 2023, general manager David Forst told reporters, including Martin Gallegos of MLB.com. Aguilar appeared in 63 games at first and 60 at DH last year for the Marlins and Orioles, and it seems likely he’ll have a similar split this year. The 32-year-old had a disappointing 2022, slashing just .235/.281/.379 with 16 home runs over 507 plate appearances. He’d been a productive hitter for a few years prior though, and that was enough for Oakland to give him a one-year, $3MM deal for 2023. The rebuilding A’s will surely be hoping for a rebound at the plate so Aguilar can turn himself into a valuable trade chip at the deadline.
- Sticking with the A’s, and Forst says Paul Blackburn and James Kaprielian have both progressed well in their rehab and should be ready for spring training. “I think it’s reasonable to expect both guys to be ready to go,” Forst said (Twitter link). Both players figure to be part of Oakland’s rotation this year. Blackburn, 29, pitched in 21 games last year and worked to a 4.28 ERA over 111 1/3 innings, striking out batters at a 19.1% clip against a 6.4% walk rate. He was a productive pitcher for the first three months of the season and earned his first All Star game callup. He was shelled for 21 runs over 14 1/3 innings while pitching through pain in his pitching hand before he ultimately went on the injured list. That pain ballooned out his ERA a bit and wound up ending his season, so it’ll be interesting to see if Blackburn can rediscover his early season form in 2023. He’ll earn $1.9MM in his first year of arbitration. Kaprielian threw 134 innings of 4.23 ERA ball in 2022, but underwent shoulder surgery in the off-season to repair his AC joint. His rotation spot is probably a little less secure than Blackburn’s, but the trade of Cole Irvin opens up another spot and if healthy he seems likely to at least start the year in the rotation alongside Blackburn, Drew Rucinski and Shintaro Fujinami.