Devin Mesoraco has been considered the Cincinnati Reds’ catcher of the future since being drafted in the first round (15th overall) in 2007, but after being ranked as a top-20 prospect by both MLB.com and Baseball America prior to the 2012 season he has yet to find his way at the major league level over the past two seasons.
Mesoraco set career-highs across the board in 2013, with nine home runs and 42 RBI in 103 games (352 plate appearances), but Ryan Hanigan (75 games, 260 plate appearances) also saw a fair amount of action behind the plate for the Reds as manager Dusty Baker seemed reluctant to rely on the young catcher.
Baker has been replaced by former pitching coach Bryan Price, who has already talked about moving Mesoraco up in the batting order, and Hanigan was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason. So the organization as a whole looks ready to give the 25-year old a real shot to prove himself in 2014, but is Mesoraco on the verge of a breakout season?
The Reds signed Brayan Pena to replace Hanigan as their No. 2 catcher, but it’s safe to say he is not a threat to take a lot of at-bats away from Mesoraco and the team does not have any other catchers that are guaranteed to have a spot on the Opening Day roster. Mesoraco did struggle against right-handed pitching last year (.212 batting average), so the switch-hitting Pena may start when Cincinnati is slated to face a particularly tough right-handed starter, but a full 50-50 platoon is unlikely to say the least.
Mesoraco hit 26 home runs across three minor league levels (High Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A) in 2010, and it’s worth remembering he still has less than 600 at-bats (538) under his belt at the major league level. Mesoraco enters spring training as the unquestioned starter behind the plate for the Reds, and only a significant injury between now and then will keep him out of the Opening Day lineup.