For his first two years in the majors, Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco lived in the shadows of Ryan Hanigan. Outcries from a portion of the Reds fanbase wanted Mes to be the team’s #1 catcher, but there were those that thought Hanigan should be the #1. It actually became a bit of a divisive matter.
Hanigan was a popular player. His gritty play and grinding out of at-bats earned him some praise from those in his corner. For a couple of seasons, Hanigan was considered the Reds best “clutch” hitter, especially in 2010. That reputation seemingly carried over (fair or not) into the next three seasons. All Mesoraco, the 15th overall pick in the 2007 draft, could do was be patient and wait his turn.
But why? After a couple of ho-hum seasons in the minors, Mesoraco showed his worth during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He played at three levels for those two seasons. In 2010, he crafted a slashline of .302/.377/.587 with 26 HR and 75 RBI. The next season he did fall off a bit as his slashline was .289/.371/.484 with 15 HR and 71 RBI.
In 2012, Mesoraco was given the opportunity to be the #2. One reason he had the opportunity was the Reds sent Yasmani Grandal to San Diego in the Mat Latos deal. But Mes struggled at the plate (some will say for lack of consistent at-bats) and was not on the postseason roster.
More waiting, and as Tom Petty sang, “the waiting is the hardest part”.
Last season, Mesoraco got his turn, somewhat. Hanigan missed extended time on two occasions, once in late April-early May and the other was mid July-early August. The results from Mesoraco being the team’s top catcher in those times:
4/20/13 – 5/9/13: .222/.294/.311, 1 HR, 4 RBI
7/10/13 – 8/8/13: .274/.289/.493, 4 HR, 14 RBI
The second stint proved to be a little more successful.
Well, the answer to that was apparently “yes”. This past December, the Reds sent the popular Hanigan to the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team deal. Prior to that trade, Cincy had signed free agent catcher Brayan Pena to a two-year deal. The rumors swirled about a Hanigan deal which ultimately came to fruition.
The #1 catching spot was squarely placed on the shoulders of Mesoraco. He’s already experienced a couple of bumps, literally, this season. Get to those in a bit.
So we know Mesoraco single-handedly lifted the Reds to a 6-4 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks last night. He cranked a grand slam in the 2nd inning and drilled a solo shot in the 9th. The slam came off former teammate Bronson Arroyo.
Let’s look at a few things…
1. Offense: Below you see a chart of how Mesoraco has fared in 2012, 2013, and so far this season.
Naturally, the question will be maintaining his production. I don’t think anyone would expect him to do so. That’s a lofty slashline and OPS+.
The swing% is down, maybe hinting he’s being more selective. But the contact% is down as well. That could signal that Mesoraco is doing something when he does make contact. A .391 BABIP? And yes, his swinging strike rate is up to 12.8% for this season. It was below 10% the past two seasons.
2. Defense: We’ll look at the same three seasons as we did with Mesoraco’s offense.
Don’t recall anyone ever saying Mesoraco was a defense player. The bat was the issue coming up through the minors. I think having a couple of season with Hanigan has served Mes well. You see some improvement. They’re not Hanigan numbers, but being above the NL average in CS% for 2013 and so far this season is something you’ll take any day.
Just have to stop a few wild pitches and limit the passed balls.
3. Value: Of course this will appear to be “off the charts” in comparison to his previous two seasons, but it’s also kind of crazy to see.
Told you. Strange how this all looks. Among position players, Mesoraco is 2nd on the team in terms of fWAR (Todd Frazier – 2.1) and he is #1 in bWAR.
4. Health: This is one concern. Mes began this season on the disabled and has spent another stint on it as well. In the previous two seasons, he has also found his way to the DL.
I think we’re starting to see the Devin Mesoraco many fans thought the Reds were getting when the selected him in 2007. It took him a couple of seasons in the minors and two more in the bigs to finally grasp part of his potential. I think he can get better (more defensively?). If he does, the patience and slow building confidence the Reds placed on him will be rewarded even more.