Can Devin Mesoraco be the future at the C position in Cincinnati?
There were high expectations by the Cincinnati Reds front office for Mesoraco in 2007 as they drafted him 15th overall in the MLB amateur draft. Coming out of Punxsutawney High School in in Pennsylvania, scouts had projected Mesoraco as a 20+ home run hitter with the skills to stay at the catcher position for the long haul. The one weakness that they saw was a long swing at times which would lead to a low batting average.
Mesoraco's first professional season was a disappointment. In 40 games of rookie ball, he only managed a .219 batting average and one home run over 155 plate appearances.
As Mesoraco moved up through A and A+ ball over the next two years, the results were still disappointing. Mesoraco was battling nagging injuries over these levels and it really showed as he only hit 17 home runs in 691 plate appearances. Expectations where slowly dwindling for this once top prospect.
It all turned around for Mesoraco in 2010 as he tore through A+ and AA ball to finish the season one step away from the show in AAA. The power potential that the scouts had spoken of was finally showing as he hit 26 home runs over the three levels while batting .302. Mesoraco improved on defense as well, upping his previous years' percentage of players caught stealing from 30 percent in 2009 to 41 percent in 2010. All signs were looking good for the 22 year old.
2011 was the real litmus test for Mesoraco as he would start the season in AAA and prove he is the catcher of the future for his young, up-and-coming franchise. Mesoraco did not disappoint one bit. At the highest level of the minors he put together a spectacular season. In 499 plate appearances Mesoraco had a .289 batting average, 52 extra base hits (15 going yard) and a solid 83/52 stikeout/walk ratio.
In September of the 2011 season, Mesoraco was placed on the Reds 40-man roster and called up to the major leagues.
How Devin Mesoraco Can Affect the Cincinnati Red's Franchise
If not for veterans Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan having solid years in 2011, Mesoraco could have gotten the call earlier in the season. It is probably for the best that he was able to have a full season in AAA to get more experience and prove that he was ready to contribute to Reds offense.
Two years removed from a spectacular 2010 season where they won the NL Central with 91 wins, the Reds will be looking for a rejuvenation in 2012 to get them back to the playoffs. Mesoraco could be a key contributor in this process.
In 2011, the Re's offensive output was down in all categories across the board. The young players on the team just simply could not put up the numbers that had led them to 91 wins the previous year. With players such as Joey Votto and Jay Bruce leading the charge, we should see a revival of offense in 2012.
One position that played average, but not great, was the catcher position. Veteran catchers Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan split time at the crouch position and put up mediocre numbers. Hernandez finished the year with a .282 batting average and 25 extra base hits while Hanigan hit at a .267 clip and only 12 extra base hits.
Which young Reds player will have the best career?
With Mesoraco's power numbers improving and his patience at the plate getting better, we should see better numbers out of the catcher position immediately. At 23 years old, Mesoraco has the opportunity to fit right into the middle of the Reds lineup and produce. It would not be a surprise to see Mesoraco hit 15+ home runs with about a .280 average in 2012.
With another consistent bat to help Votto and Bruce, plus the improving efforts of other young players like Drew Stubbs, Yonder Alonso and Zack Cozart, the Reds should have a competitive team for years to come.
Best Outcome: Mesoraco becomes a staple in the middle of the Reds lineup in his rookie year and maintains that role for years to come. He consistently puts up 20+ home runs and 75+ RBI with a solid average. Mesoraco makes two or three All-Star games and helps in an effort to lead the Reds to multiple playoffs.
Worst Outcome: Mesoraco cannot handle major league pitching and shows a large increase in strikeouts over a full season. He is eventually removed from the catcher role when Yasmani Grandal reaches the majors. Mesoraco ends up floating around the majors as a backup player with some power.