Another year, another disappointing start for Devin Mesoraco.
The Cincinnati Reds have seen this picture before: after being gift-wrapped a chance — thanks to Ryan Hanigan‘s oblique injury — to take the reins on the team’s starting job behind the plate and running away with it, the post-hype prospect has instead floundered, struggling to demonstrate any of the first-round talent that made him a top-20 prospect only a couple of years ago.
With another disappointing 0-for-4 outing at the plate on Monday against the Atlanta Braves, Mesoraco now owns a dismal .154/.143/.231 triple-slash after three games in May … not that his overall .224/.319/.293 line is anything to brag about.
The problem, as it were, is that the 24-year old is simply hitting with no power. Three routine groundouts and a strikeout was all he mustered in his latest game, and none of the balls were hit particularly hard. The pop that he showed in the minor league has all but disappeared this season, as Mesoraco has no home runs through 69 PA and just four doubles.
Being a lack of a threat like that, it’s a borderline miracle that he’s actually second on the team (behind Joey Votto) in intentional walks with three.
A closer look at his numbers does not exactly reveal a whole lot of answers for his struggles. His plate discipline is good with a 7.2 percent swinging strikes, and he’s swinging at pitches outside the zone less at 22.2 percent, compared to 26.9 last season. Overall, his contact rate is up (82.9 percent vs. 79.6 in 2012), and he’s hitting the ball well at a 24.5 percent line drive rate.
So why is he making so many outs?
Well, mechanics could certainly a culprit in sapping his power, but it also could be the case that he’s simply not making enough good contact, especially with pitches outside the strike zone, where his contact rate is a career-high 66.7 percent).
Is he reaching to put the bat on the ball instead of hitting it with authority? Is it something about his swing? Is it just plain bad luck? With a much-improved 0.82 BB/K and a sound line drive rate, this should be a much improved hitter right now.
Yet, the talented backstop is still something of a mess, looking to show signs of life to hang on to a job that should have already been his.
Though Hanigan is far from a long-term solution, Mesoraco is going to have to show that Reds that he’s capable of being one — and even with his MLB career only at its infancy at age 24, squandering opportunities like this won’t exactly be helping it grow any time soon.