Thoughts on Devin Mesoraco
Several people have asked me for my thoughts on Cincinnati Reds catching prospect Devin Mesoraco. He's a good topic, so here goes.
First, we will begin with what I wrote about him in the 2010 book.
When you invest $1,400,000 in a player, you don't want to admit that he sucks. Although he's still young enough to improve, it's hard to find any positives in Devin Mesoraco's performance since he was drafted. He draws some walks and will show some sparks of power occasionally, but people not affiliated with the Reds say that his swing is too long and won't produce at higher levels. The weak numbers so far in his career support this. He did improve his throwing last year, catching 30% of runners instead of the 17% he caught in '08, but he remained vulnerable to passed balls and other mistakes behind the plate. I wouldn't give up on him either if I were the Reds, he's just the equivalent of a college junior entering 2010. But expectations have to be tempered, and if he can develop into a backup catcher they should be happy. Grade C.
That was a pretty negative review, obviously. He entered 2010 as a career .240/.311/.368 hitter in 215 games, with unenthusiastic reviews from scouts not affiliated with the Reds. I didn't put it in the comment, but there were also complaints that he wasn't in great physical condition and was vulnerable to injuries. His swing was said to be excessively long and mechanical.
2010 has been completely different. He started off at Lynchburg in the Carolina League, hitting .335/.414/.620 with 10 homers in 43 games. Promoted to Double-A Carolina in the Southern League, he remained hot with a .294/.363/.594 mark in 56 games. He moved up to Triple-A Louisville a couple of weeks ago with no deterioration in performance, hitting .297/.366/.622 in 10 contests so far. On the season, he's hitting a combined .312/.385/.607 with 26 homers, 26 doubles, 41 walks, and only 75 strikeouts in 382 at-bats. Defensively, he remains vulnerable to passed balls and excessive errors, but he's thrown out 40% of runners trying to steal on him, and there seems to be a general consensus that his other defensive issues will get better in time.
So, what's the deal? Is this for real?
Sabermetrically, I don't see why not. Even when he was struggling his first three seasons, his strikeout rate wasn't bad. As I pointed out in the book comment, he is still quite young, and it is hardly unprecedented to have a big performance improvement at age 21/22; it happens to college players all the time. Scouting-wise, I have not seen him, but those who have report that Mesoraco is 1) in better physical shape this year and 2) has completely revamped his swing.
Based on what I currently know, I think his improvement is genuine. That's not to say that his development will continue in a linear way. Catchers often have strange development paths, and he could regress next year. But I don't think '10 is a fluke, and his stock has obviously shot up again. I rate him as a Grade B+ prospect currently.