Devin Mesoraco (Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports)

Making the Case for Devin Mesoraco

By all accounts, the rookie season of touted catcher Devin Mesoraco was anything but smooth.  We had heard about Mesoraco for quite a few years, as a former #1 draft pick in 2007 working his way up the ranks to become the 16th ranked prospect in all of baseball before last season.  The future looked bright for the then-23-year-old to crack into the big leagues and get his shot.  What happened, however, is that Ryan Hanigan became more dominant in the role, showing a strong plate discipline, handling the pitching staff better, and providing superior defense across the league, throwing out the highest percentage of would-be base-stealers in caught stealing.

The dilemma this Spring is a little more complex than it was a year ago this time. Based on the limited playing time Mesoraco got over the course of last season (appearing in only 54 games total), he became an afterthought by season’s end, being usurped in the backup role by now-departed veteran Dioner Navarro, who had lingered in AAA awaiting a September call-up. Possibly adding insult to injury for Mes was being left off the post-season roster in favor of Navarro … unless it served as greater motivation in the long run.

There is no doubt Mesoraco has hitting ability.  His minor league stats point to having power with the bat, accumulating 59 HR in parts of five seasons, with a peak of 26 in 2010 as he propelled to AAA by season’s end.  His full 2011 season in Louisville saw 15 HR, 71 RBI with a .289 BA and .855 OPS. His September call-up was definitely earned.  The numbers at the MLB level show the struggle, however:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2011 23 CIN NL 18 53 50 5 9 3 0 2 6 0 0 3 10 .180 .226 .360 .586
2012 24 CIN NL 54 184 165 17 35 8 0 5 14 1 1 17 33 .212 .288 .352 .640
2 Yrs 72 237 215 22 44 11 0 7 20 1 1 20 43 .205 .274 .353 .628
162 Game Avg. 162 533 484 50 99 25 0 16 45 2 2 45 97 .205 .274 .353 .628

While you can’t put a lot of stock into Spring Training numbers, you can’t deny that Mesoraco has been the best hitter in this year’s warm-up activities, leading the team in hitting of those still in camp. His numbers:

Year Tm Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 CIN 25 12 20 19 3 9 2 0 2 10 0 0 1 2 .474 .524 .895 1.419

The case is made that much stronger, for what it’s worth, by the lack of production being shown by his primary competition this year – Miguel Olivo, another veteran, much like Navarro last year.  Mesoraco and Olivo are seeing the lion’s share of the catching duties (both more than Hanigan at this point) lending more credence to Dusty Baker truly evaluating between the two. For comparison, Olivo has had 23 AB, generating only 2 hits versus 10 strikeouts, sporting a measly .087 BA and .120 OBP, and one of his two hits was a homer.

I will certainly take my chances with the likes of Mesoraco coming back stronger in 2013, having learned what he did in 2012 and, if nothing else, being a valuable bat off the bench when he isn’t starting.  The only compelling argument I’ve heard for keeping Mesoraco in AAA is having him catching every day, but it is more valuable for him to keep handling the major league staff and seeing major league pitchers at the plate.

What say you? Do you think Devin Mesoraco deserves his spot on the 25-man roster?

Follow me and continue the conversation on Twitter @JDRentz

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