Over the past two seasons no one could talk about the position of catchers and not include both: Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez. It was simply an impossible task to do so. Well, an adjustment will need to be made for 2012. Hernandez will be removed and the name Devin Mesoraco will be inserted.
Combining both Hanigan and Mesoraco may seem like I’m making my task harder. It didn’t present as tough a task as I had originally thought. Combining the stats, projections, positives and negatives actually produced a little more levity to the Reds catching situation as a whole.
Well, here’s the look…
Stats and projections
* – stats for Louisville (AAA)
The Reds got a great deal younger at the position. While Hernandez did present the Reds with three solid seasons, he will be 36 in May. Even though Mesoraco (right) was a first round pick back in 2007, he won’t be 24 until late June. That’s a dozen years. That’s a lot of years. Hanigan won’t turn 32 in late August. You have the best of both worlds here: a veteran and a rookie.
2. Less runs?
And I’m not talking about offensive production here. I know not everyone is a fan of what I’m about to state, so I’ll let a table talk (somewhat) for me.
Look at the ER, ERA, SO, BB and SO/BB columns. These are significant here. While Hanigan is behind the plate, the Reds pitchers surrendered fewer earned runs, fewer runs overall, walked less batters and struck out batters at a higher rate. Hanigan also was behind the plate for more innings. Does this mean Hanigan is a more effective catcher? Possibly. Think about this. Who is Bronson Arroyo‘s personal catcher? Hanigan. There may be reason for that.
Of course one could argue that Hernandez’s line is inflated due to catching Edinson Volquez in 15 of 20 outings. The question will be can Mesoraco attain the same success as Hanigan (or close to it) or will he “post” a Hernandez-like line when behind the plate?
1. Replacing Hernandez offensively
To ask Mesoraco to walk in and put up the same numbers of Hernandez may be too tall a task to ask of him. I’m not saying he can’t, but I’m wondering if all the expectations that could be placed upon him will become overwhelming. His last two seasons in the minors showed vast improvement over the previous three.
Hanigan did suffer a fall off last season in his overall offensive numbers, but there’s one thing you are assured of with him, he will battle opposing pitchers. He’s also more than willing to take a free pass. The combined projected lines for Hanigan and Mesoraco do display the slightest of increases over 2011, but are still down from 2010′s line (.296/.375/.429, 13 HR, 91 RBI).
2. Loss of defense?
No one would say Hernandez is a Gold Glove catcher, but his defense was as solid as his offense. Maybe even better than solid. Mesoraco isn’t a huge drop off, but I will revert back to possibly being overwhelmed. What few people talk about is that for the 2011 season, Hernandez led all NL catchers in fielding percentage (.998) and was third in caught stealing (37.1%). That’s could be burdensome for a rookie.
While in the minors, Mesoraco, based on a full season, posted a best fielding percentage of .986 (last year) and a best caught stealing of 41% (2010). For nabbing base stealers, Mesoraco’s next best year was 2009 when he threw out 30%.
3. No real “base” for projecting Mes
It’s the same as I stated about anticipating what Zack Cozart will do in 2012. We don’t have a real track record except for referring to Mesoraco’s minor league numbers. That can be daunting in the sense that you hope that when the light went on in 2010, it stays on.
It may look like I’m being pessimistic, I assure you that I’m not. I can see this tandem performing solidly in 2012. Maybe not to the beloved 2010 levels, but I do anticipate the slight uptick as James does.
Some still refer to the Reds 2010 season as a fluke. Well, if you consider the production of from the catching position of 2010 against that of 2011, you can easily see a reason that 2011 might not have been as successful. To request those same 2010 numbers of the new duo of Hanigan and Mesoraco might be asking for too much. If they can approach the combined James projections, it will still be a steady offensive position.
The defense may suffer a bit, but we have to keep in mind that Mesoraco is still young and will now be charged with learning to call a game at the big league level on top of all the other MLB nuances he must learn. As compared to his 2010 and 2011 minor league stats, a lapse in offense is not beyond reason. The learning curve can be brutal.
Also, as the projections reveal, I foresee Hanigan getting a little more playing time than Mesoraco. If the bar holds, we should see less runs, a better SO/BB rate from the staff. Having some new arms shouldn’t hurt in these areas, but you never know. Being comfortable with a certain catcher can pay dividends.