Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): Potential to be an above-average Major League catcher that hits fifth in the lineup every day.
The Player: Devin Mesoraco (C, Cincinnati Reds) – A first round pick of the Reds, Mesoraco has endured a bumpy ride as he approached the minor leagues. After floundering in his first couple minor league seasons, only flashing the tools that made him a prep prospect, Mesoraco exploded in 2010 with a huge season that completely resurrected his prospect stock. He built on that resume in 2011 and cemented himself as one of the better catching prospects in the game.
Body: A good catcher’s body that has trimmed down some in the last two years. He has strength in his lower half and enough mass to be a durable catcher over the long grind of a full season.
Makeup: Any concerns about Mesoraco’s work ethic and desire to be a big leaguer have vanished over the last two seasons. He is now one of the first players at the park and one of the last to leave, and he spends plenty of time working to improve the nuances of his game.
Hit: A basic stance and sound trigger give him a chance to be prepared to hit quickly and consistently. He has more of an uppercut swing than a lofted or leveraged swing and that often times short circuits the bats trip through the hitting zone. He pulls off balls on the outer third. He will always have some swing and miss in his game and should hit for only a modest average.. Grade – 30/40
Power: A quick bat and good strength in his wrists and forearms give him the ability to drive the ball with ease. With his upper cut swing he is more likely to hit majestic moon shot home runs than rope one out of the park and most of his power remains to the pull side. He could hit 20-25 home runs a year once he adjusts to the better competition in the big leagues. Grade (raw power) – 50/60
Arm: His raw arm strength is above-average though he will sling the ball to second rather than fire it on a line at times, hiding some of his natural velocity. He has improved his throwing over the last year and should be an average thrower overall. Grade – 50/50
Fielding: In my observation over the last two years he has made great strides in his receiving and blocking of pitches. He will get in funks where he boxes some pitches and doesn’t help his pitcher earn borderline calls but those instances are becoming more infrequent. Even with his improvements he remains an average defender on his best days and will probably max out at that grade. Grade (center field) – 50/50
Speed: A poor runner at best, he turns in home to first time in the 20- to 30-grade range consistently. Though he is a plodding runner he has good awareness on the bases and doesn’t bog down his teammates at any point. He will likely slow down more as he matures physically. Grade – 30/20
Summation: A solid all-around backstop that should provide enough offense to mask any deficiencies he maintains on the defensive side of the ball. He can become a .250+ hitter with 20-25 home runs annually while playing good enough defense to stay in the lineup every day. His peak should fall in the range of the occasional All-Star that has a lengthy career.
Relative Risk: Low. His proximity to the big leagues, solid defense and power potential alleviate many of the concerns about his long term projection. He has developed about as far as can be expected and only a surprising and dramatic regression would preclude him from reaching his ceiling.
Future: The Reds have indicated that Mesoraco will enter spring training with a chance to take over the catching duties on Opening Day. The trade of Yasmani Grandal eliminates any serious competition from developing behind him in the short term and gives him a clear window to cease the everyday job. It could take a year or two for him to begin approaching his ceiling but he should be a good one for a long time. .