.136/.224/.182. That was the stat line for Tyler Stephenson on May 3rd, 2016. He hadn’t played in nearly two weeks at that point, finding himself on the disabled list as he recovered from a concussion. The overall line was not good, but he had five walks and 11 strikeouts in that time. A .182 batting average on balls in play was killing his production. His season ran into problems when he returned, playing two weeks before injuring his wrist that eventually would lead to multiple DL trips and surgery.
Fast forward a year to the day and Tyler Stephenson finds himself back with the Dayton Dragons. Things, however, look very different. In 20 games this season he’s hitting .301/.400/.466 with 10 walks and 16 strikeouts. He’s been a very different hitter, both statistically, and simply watching him.
Coming out of the draft Tyler Stephenson was viewed as a power hitting catcher, though the power wasn’t quite developed yet. He was expected to hit. And he did hit for the Billings Mustangs in 2015 as an 18-year-old. In 2016 things went south with the wrist injury after a slow start. His wrist injury, that led to surgery, would usually lead to a bit of a power outage. Wrist injuries are notorious for sapping power for a bit of time after the injury, sometimes up to a year.
That hasn’t been evident for Tyler Stephenson in 2017. He’s shown plenty of extra-base power this year, hitting six doubles and two home runs in 20 games played. From a pure scouting standpoint, he looks more confident with the strikezone. He seems to have a better idea of what he wants to swing at and what he wants to lay off of. His swing looks more fluid. The ball is coming off of his bat and carrying better than it was last year.
While it hasn’t even been a full month since the minor league season began, the difference a year has made for Tyler Stephenson has been huge. He’s healthy at this point, which is key. But his numbers are also up across the board. He looks better on the field. The 20-year-old catcher is starting to show on the field all of the promise that was there when the Reds drafted him 11th overall in 2015.