As recently as two years ago, industry experts held the common belief that Devin Mesoraco was the best prospect in Cincinnati's organization. The Reds must have agreed with this sentiment partly because they chose to trade another promising catcher, Yasmani Grandal, in order to clear the path for Mesoraco to take over the catching duties one day.
Now, with the departure of Ryan Hanigan, that inevitable day seems to have finally come for Mesoraco, as the 25-year-old will be entrusted to fill the starting backstop role. Whether or not he succeeds remains to be seen, but it's safe to call his audition for the job over the past few years a disappointment. In 589 major league plate appearances, Mesoraco has slashed just .225/.282/.359 with 16 home runs, 44 walks, and 104 strikeouts, which is a far cry from the .289/.371/.484 line he produced at Triple-A Louisville in 2011.
Fortunately, Mesoraco has a chance to change the trajectory of his most recent results in 2014, as he will be given every ample opportunity to perform on a (mostly) everyday basis.
With that being said, he was recently pegged by David Schoenfield of ESPN.com as one of five players heading into a "make-or-break" campaign. Here is a quick look at what Schoenfield had to say about the right-handed hitting and throwing youngster from Pennsylvania.
Mesoraco's bat was supposed to be his calling card, but in his first chance at extended playing time he flopped with a sub-.300 OBP. Mesoraco doesn't have the service time of Ackley and Davis, and catchers can take longer to develop at the plate, so his leash is a little longer. Mesoraco's defense was better than expected in 2013, as he threw out 29 percent of runners (league average was 28 percent). Still, he'll turn 26 this season, so his time to turn into an above-average player or All-Star performer is starting to wane.
What to expect: Veteran Ryan Hanigan is gone, so the Reds have handed the keys to Mesoraco. Considering the Reds' lineup after Joey Votto and Jay Bruce is pretty spotty, they desperately need Mesoraco to improve his numbers. I have my doubts. He didn't hit righties at all last year (.212/.254/.322) and he walked even less in the second half. The ZiPS numbers may be optimistic, although it's possible he could crack 20 home runs playing in Great American Ball Park.
There is no denying that the Reds will need Mesoraco to ramp up his offensive production this year. For the sake of both him and the team, let's hope is capable of doing just that.
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