SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Reds have been patient with Tyler Stephenson's development since they selected him 11th overall in the 2015 Draft. He spent his first two full pro seasons at low Class A Dayton while battling injuries, and he has advanced a level at a time since.
After Stephenson played at Double-A Chattanooga this year, the big leagues are in sight for the 23-year-old catcher. To help prepare him for Triple-A Louisville and expedite his path to Cincinnati, the Reds sent him to the Arizona Fall League. He played in his final game of the season Wednesday night, collecting two hits as his Glendale Desert Dogs defeated the Salt River Rafters, 6-5.
Stephenson, Cincinnati's No. 7 prospect per MLB Pipeline, posted the best offensive numbers of his career in Double-A, batting .285/.372/.410 with six homers in 89 games, and he continued to hit in the Fall League. He posted a .347/.418/.490 line with nearly as many walks (five) as strikeouts (seven), and he currently ranks tied for third in doubles (seven) and fourth in batting. He packs plenty of strength and plus raw power in his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame, and he controls the strike zone well enough to also hit for average.
Though he performed well at the plate in the AFL, Stephenson said he benefited even more from his extra work behind it.
"It was a great opportunity to see some older guys, see their stuff, and I'm pleased with how it went," said Stephenson, a product of Kennesaw (Ga.) Mountain High. "Especially on the catching aspect, getting to deal with some of those older guys, and hopefully I can make that step to Triple-A next year. That's probably what I took the most out of it."
Stephenson said he relished the chance to work with more experienced pitchers and hone his leadership skills. He missed considerable time in his first two years with a concussion plus wrist and thumb injuries, and playing regularly the past two seasons has helped him improve his defense considerably. He has one of the stronger arms in the Fall League and continues to get better as a receiver.
"You always hear that high-school catchers tend to take a longer time because it's all about that experience," Stephenson said. "Especially missing my first two years because of injuries, that kind of put me two years back. I've been fortunate the last two years I've been healthy, and that's the only way you can get better, getting on the field, getting reps and catching guys."
Right-hander Victor Castaneda (Brewers) turned in another strong start for Glendale, finishing the fall with a 3-1 record and 1.99 ERA after striking out seven in four innings. He recorded three whiffs with his changeup while operating at 92-94 mph with his fastball. Desert Dogs left fielder Conner Capel (Indians) hit the game's lone home run, a two-run shot in the fifth inning off right-hander Vincenzo Aiello (Marlins) that traveled a projected 359 feet with an exit velocity of 93 mph.