Monday, October 17, 2011

The Youth Movement: Devin Mesoraco

October 19, 2011

Devin Mesoraco, the 15th overall selection in the 2007 draft, may only be 23 years old, but has already had his share of ups and downs on his way through the Cincinnati Reds farm system. In his first three minor league seasons, Mesoraco had OBPs of .310, .311 and .311 - consistent to be sure, but not very good - and a combined 18 HRs in 745 ABs. All signs were pointing towards Mesoraco becoming a bust before he ever had a chance to reach the majors before breaking out with a fantastic 2010 season -- a season in which he hit .302 across three levels (Hi-A, AA, AAA) with 26 HRs and a 80/43 strikeout-to-walk ratio, leading to a .377 OBP. He followed that up with an 855 OPS at Triple-A Louisville in 2011 - hitting ..289 with 15 HRs. Now he is a top-10 prospect in all of baseball who's ready to take on a full-time job with the Reds.

So why the sudden improvement in 2010? The tools have always been there, so the explanations tend to be either a lack of conditioning (he's listed at 6'1" and 220 pounds, which is reportedly a good deal less than he weighed back in 2009) or just a general lack of effort. His performance the last two years suggests that neither of these things is much of an issue right now.

The unknown issue as it relates to his 2012 fantasy value is whether he will make the opening day roster. Right now, Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan are still with the team, although you would expect one of them not to be back with the club next year. If Mesoraco makes the team, he immediately becomes the Reds catcher with greatest upside, even if he is splitting time in April. With both a hit tool and power tool that show plus-potential, Mesoraco profiles as a .280-.290 hitter with the potential to hit 20+ HRs per season. He won't steal any bases, but you won't need him too -- that's plenty valuable enough for a catcher. Also, even though he struggled in a 50 AB MLB audition this September, the positive is that he was able to keep his K rate at 20% which is consistent with his minor league career.

If we get to late March and it looks like Mesoraco will be on the opening day roster, I will have him ranked in my top 12 catchers. He certainly has the ability to hit .260 with 20 HRs and 65 RBI if he's given the playing time. Otherwise, he'll be a player to watch as prospects are called up in early June.

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