Catchers are a tough bunch to project when ranking them for fantasy leagues. Catching prospects are an even tougher group to project. Who would have thought that Wilin Rosario would lead all catchers in home runs in 2012? I didn't. Who would have thought that Rosario would have the better fantasy season than Reds catching prospect Devin Mesoraco? I didn't. Luckily, I drafted Rosario instead of Mesoraco in my NL-only redraft league last year. Coupled with my 8th round pick-Buster Posey-they put up 52 home runs for me last season.
Heading into 2013 fantasy drafts, Mesoraco will probably not be drafted in most mixed leagues, and probably will only be drafted in deeper leagues and leagues requiring two catchers based on his performance last season. I think, if given regular playing time, he could easily outperform his draft round, providing solid value for owners.
Let's take a look at his 2012 season to see if anything stands out. Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference:
The table above is a quick look at his career minor league and major league stats. Heading into the 2012 season, Mesoraco was the 16th ranked prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America. He was coming off a season where he triple-slashed .289-.371-.484 with 15 HRs, 71 RBI and 60 runs scored in 436 at bats. He doesn't strike out a bunch and knows how to take a walk. He had walked in 10% of his plate appearances over his last two minor league seasons. This is what Minor League Ball's John Sickels wrote about him back in early April 2012:
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.
Other prospect experts felt that he could be a middle-of-the-order hitter for the Reds if all went well. Well, they didn't go well. Mesoraco had trouble making contact last season, hitting just .212-.288-.352 in his 165 at bats. Reds manager Dusty Baker went with the veteran Ryan Hanigan behind the plate more often than not, relegating Mesoraco to the bench. Mesoraco struggled so badly at the plate that the team demoted him to the minors back on August 23rd, toward the end of the AAA season, which seemed strange. The timing was not surprising though, as he was sent down after serving a two game suspension for bumping an umpire. They called him back up on September 3rd when rosters expanded, but he received just 3 at bats the rest of the way, as the Reds were in a pennant race, eventually winning the NL Central.
There isn't much good to take away from his 2012 season except for the following:
1. He still possess above average power which should play well in Great American Ballpark. While Hanigan possesses a career BB/K rate over 1.00, he doesn't have much power. Hanigan has hit just 18 career home runs in over 1,300 plate appearances.
2. He was a bit unlucky at the plate, as his .234 BABIP would indicate, but he also didn't make much contact, so there is reason to think both should improve in 2013.
3. While he didn't hit for a good average, he did walk at a 9.2% rate last season, so he still owns solid plate discipline.
Some catchers take longer to make the adjustments at the big league level than others. Not every catcher is going to hit the ground running at the plate like Buster Posey has. Some need more time, and need to be brought along slower, as not only do they need to adjust to major league pitching, they need to learn how to call a game at the highest level, and how to hold base runners.
Mesoraco is known for his terrific work ethic and has solid leadership skills. He is the Reds catcher of the future, and all he needs is to have a good spring and for manager Dusty Baker to take notice. Should that happen, I think he could be a steal on draft day, as his bat should play well at Great American Ballpark.
With regular playing time, I see him hitting .265 with 15 HRs, 45 runs and 60 RBI in 2013.