What Does Devin Mesoraco’s Extension Mean for Tucker Barnhart?


This week Devin Mesoraco signed a four-year, $28 million contract extension to be the Cincinnati Reds everyday catcher through 2019. While this is an excellent deal for the Reds, there is one player who may wonder what it means for him in the near future. That player is the up-and-coming catcher, Tucker Barnhart.

Barnhart was the Reds’ tenth best prospect in 2014, according to Baseball America. Due to injuries last year, he got to know the stretch of I-71 between Louisville and Cincinnati very well. This year, barring any spring training injuries, he will likely start the season in Louisville.

Barnhart is an above average defensive catcher. In fact, he won a Rawlings Gold Glove award for best defensive catcher in all of the minor leagues when he was with the Dayton Dragons in 2011. He can throw runners out on the base paths as well as any young catcher. The area in which he needs the most improvement is at the plate.

His career stats in the minors aren’t horrible. He’s hit .259/.341/.354 with a .695 OPS over his entire minor league career. He’s not a power hitter by any stretch, but during his best seasons at Dayton in 2011 and at Pensacola in 2013, he proved to be a guy who could make contact and drive in runs if he gets enough plate appearances. He hit around .270 in the lower levels of the minors, but his batting average has regressed about twenty-five points as he’s worked his way up the system.

During his short stints in the majors last year, he struggled, hitting just .185 in 54 AB. He did shine on the defensive side, showing off his cannon of an arm and throwing out four of eight runners. He also had just three passed balls, nine wild pitches and zero errors in 132.0 innings behind the plate.

Currently, the Reds already have a backup catcher to Mesoraco. Brayan Pena has one more year on his contract and has turned into quite a leader in the clubhouse. He gets along well with the players (especially the Spanish-speaking ones) and has become somewhat of a personal catcher for Johnny Cueto. He also has made quite the impression on Reds fans, becoming a fan favorite with his positivity and upbeat personality. Will the Reds want to extend Pena past 2015? I wouldn’t be surprised if Pena wants to stay in Cincinnati. He seems to enjoy playing here and his versatility at first base was a plus when Votto was injured last year.

It would seem as if the Reds have a decision to make. Do they keep Barnhart as insurance if Mesoraco or Pena get injured while letting him work on his offense in Louisville? Or do they try to trade him for a solid bench player who they could use in 2015? (Remember, in trading Mat Latos, they did get a catcher, Chad Wallach, who will probably start the season at AA-Pensacola). Either way, it should be an interesting spring training for one Tucker Barnhart.