Tyler Stephenson Finishes On Positive Note
For catcher Tyler Stephenson, his time in instructional league was all about finishing a season healthy.
A 2015 first-round pick out of a Georgia high school, Stephenson was limited to 44 games in his first full season of 2016. He suffered from a concussion and a left wrist injury that required season-ending surgery.
The injury bug bit again in 2017, when Stephenson suffered an injury to his right thumb when sliding into second base on a double-steal. He was diagnosed with ligament damage in the thumb and headed to Arizona to have surgery, but in his pre-op appointment, the doctor decided surgery wasn’t needed.
That allowed Stephenson to get back on the field for instructional league, if not low Class A Dayton’s playoff series.
"I think it's more just going into the offseason knowing he's healthy and ready to go,” farm director Jeff Graupe said. "That's the value of (instructional league) games right now. Knowing that you're not going to have a limited offseason and taking out the doubt of a return to injury.”
Stephenson is a big catcher at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, but Graupe has seen him take strides both offensively and defensively.
"I do think it's very difficult to develop both offensively and behind the plate at the same time. I just think that's something that doesn't get talked about enough in the game,” Graupe said.
". . . I thought the pace that he was able to play at was impressive, and really it was just a comfort and leadership factor that you knew was in there. But he was able to be in control and slow things down and it showed.”
At the plate this season, Stephenson hit .278/.374/.414 with six home runs in 80 games. He also drew 44 walks to 58 strikeouts.
Though injuries have been the overriding storyline of his short career so far, Stephenson hopes they are behind him, especially considering the freak nature of the concussion (a ricochet in a batting cage) and the thumb (a feet-first hook slide).
The saving grace, he noted, may be that the thumb injury not only didn’t require surgery, but it was on his throwing hand, so the wear-and-tear of catching the likes of Hunter Greene and Anthony DeSclafani in instructs didn’t impact his thumb.
2018 Position Rankings: Catchers
This year's catcher class is deep with a mix of offensive and defensive backstops.
"I'm excited to be able to finish the season on a strong note,” Stephenson said.