Prospect of the Day: Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds are committed to rookie Devin Mesoraco as their regular catcher for 2012. He had a slow start in spring training, going 3-for-22 in his first 10 games, but finished strong with a 7-for-18 (.389) run in his last nine games, seizing full control of the catching job. Let's take a look at his development as a prospect, and what the Reds can expect this year.
Mesoraco was drafted in the first round in 2007, from high school in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, as the 15th overall pick. He didn't hit well in rookie ball (.219/.310/.270 in 137 at-bats) but scouts knew he was rather raw due to his cold-weather background. He improved in 2008 (.261/.311/.399 for Low-A Dayton) but slumped in 2009 (.228/.311/.381) in High-A, struggling with nagging hand injuries and problems with his swing.
Things turned around in 2010: he retooled his stroke, was excellent in High-A (.335/.414/.620), very strong in Double-A (.294/.363/.594), and finished the year by showing power in Triple-A (.231/.310/.462). He consolidated his progress with a solid '11 season for Triple-A Louisville (.289/.371/.484), and while he didn't hit great for the Reds late last year (.180/.226/.360 in 18 games), he performed well enough that the club was willing to trade fellow top catching prospect Yasmani Grandal to the San Diego Padres as part of the Mat Latos deal.
Mesoraco is a 6-1, 220 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born June 19, 1988. Primarily a pull hitter with above-average power, he's reasonably selective but isn't going to draw a huge number of walks. Don't expect a terrific batting average or OBP, but he should provide more pop than most catchers. Depending on who you ask, his glovework rates as average or slightly above. He's thrown out 29% of runners trying to steal in his career. He'll make a few errors, but his receiving and leadership skills are well-regarded and he'll have no trouble holding the job defensively.
Catchers with defensive chops who can hit are at a premium. Mesoraco doesn't have much left to prove in the minors, so expect the Reds to be patient with him even if he gets off to a slow start. At age 23 (24 in June), he has plenty of growth potential. The main risk here is the possibility of more nagging injuries, but that comes with the position.