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Red Report 2016 - Devin Mesoraco

An enigma wrapped in a cliche.

He's not squatting, he's homesteading.
He's not squatting, he's homesteading.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Fast Facts:

Devin Mesoraco will turn 28 in 2016, which puts him firmly in the 'peak/prime' portion of his career according to numerous studies I've neither looked up nor am linking to at this point.  He also:

  • was drafted two picks ahead of St. Louis Cardinals infielder Pete Kozma
  • surprisingly holds just a 3.9 to 0.3 career bWAR advantage over Kozma, which I bet you'd have lost a bet on
  • was selected immediately after the Atlanta Braves took Jason Heyward in the 1st round of the 2007 MLB Draft
  • was born in Punxsutawney, PA
  • is one of three humans in history who can spell 'Punxsutawney' correctly on the first try
  • is actually a groundhog
  • to date has been the 6th most valuable catcher selected in the 2007 MLB Draft according to bWAR, ranking behind Josh Donaldson (25.1, who was drafted as a catcher Joey Votto style), Jonathan Lucroy (15.8), Matt Wieters (14.6), Derek Norris (7.9), and Yasmani Grandal (5.9, who was drafted in the 27th round that year by the Boston Red Sox, obviously didn't sign, and was later taken by the Reds in 1st round of the 2010 Draft by the Reds out of Miami)
  • hates it when I keep bringing up Yasmani Grandal in articles about him
  • hates it when I keep bringing up Yasmani Grandal in every single article I've ever written

Organizational History:

  • June 7, 2007: Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1st round (15th pick) of the 2007 amateur draft. Player signed June 22, 2007.

Contract Status:

Mesoraco signed a 4 year, $28 million contract prior to the start of the 2015 MLB season, which at the time bought out the final two years of his arbitration eligibility as well as one year of potential free agency.  He'll earn $5.025 million in 2016, and has a total of 3 years, and $25.475 million guaranteed left on his contract.

Career Stats:

2015 Projections:

Career Swing F/X (through end of 2014):

GIForaco racoing Craig Kimbrel:

2016 Outlook:

Who knows?  Does anyone?

These are the end of year OPSs Devin has posted since his first year in the big leagues in 2011:  .586, .640, .649, .893, .519.  Embedded in those are playing time limitations, a freak April of 2014, hamstring issues, concussion issues, major hip issues, groin issues, and a major hip surgery.  They're obviously not a direct representation of what Mes can provide when healthy and in the lineup on a day to day basis, but that's largely because Mes has never been healthy and in the lineup on a day to day basis enough for us to really know the kind of player he can be.

Our own Grimey looked at that - and more - in detail prior to last year, back when both we and the Reds envisioned him as a 130 game per year catcher of the future/present fresh off his All Star campaign in 2014.

The Reds are looking forward to Devin Mesoraco being a big bat in the middle of their lineup, as evidenced by the four year contract they gave him in the offseason. There are a few metrics to determine whether or not that was the correct move by the club, but none of that will be answered this year unless their budding young star is hit by a bus.

It turns out that bus was not an actual bus, but rather a labrum tear in his hip that kept him out for the majority of the 2015 season and prompted the Reds to try him as an outfielder in an experiment aimed at keeping his squatting to an absolute minimum.  The experiment failed, however, and surgery both cut short his 2015 season and put the rest of his catching career into question.

Just yesterday, he finally made his Cactus League debut, catching two innings and flashing his immense pull power by bashing a dinger in his very first plate appearance.  It was a glimpse into what Mesoraco is at his absolute best, a right-handed power bat well capable of cracking 25 dingers in just 440 PAs (a la 2014) and being an .820-.860 OPS bat that can anchor a lineup.  For good measure, he threw out a runner from his catching position on Thursday, too, which garnered a deep-seeded sigh from me and many others that his surgically repaired leg is back and ready to be a force again in 2016.

I've written about Mesoraco extensively for years.  I hoped back in 2013 that the team giving him the catching reigns would result in his potential being unleashed, something that didn't actually materialize until his fantastic 2014 season.  Just last month I wondered how his delicate comeback would figure into the current firesale and rebuild that the Reds are in the process of seeing through.  It's undeniable that the organization has faith in him both now (they let Brayan Pena leave in free agency and didn't sign a single catcher in the offseason) as they've shown multiple times in the past (by trading away both Grandal and Ryan Hanigan).  But realistically, any rational answer to the question of what Mesoraco will provide in 2016 and beyond could only be answered with the preface of "if he's healthy," and that's something experience has told us is hard to count on.

When he's healthy and when he's on, he's capable of greatness, evidenced by his breakout 2014 season that saw him OPS 1.297 in April and carry one of 1.009 through the end of June.  Of course, that shooting star stretch also included a stint on the DL with hamstring issues, and far outpaced what he'd ever shown at any level in the past.  That's why ZiPS projects him to get just 241 PAs while Steamer (404), FanGraphs Fans (485), and Marcels (270) have no idea exactly what to make of him, either.

So, you could tell me Mes will hit 20 dingers, put up a .280/.350/.480 line in 480 PA, and make his second All Star Game apperance in 2016, and I'd not be the least bit surprised.  His healthy presence could rather revolutionize the Reds' lineup, as slotting healthy him behind healthy Joey Votto for the majority of the team's games is something that the baseball health gods have never allowed to happen before.  But you could also tell me he fights groin, hip, and hamstring soreness while playing the most demanding position in baseball, the detriments of which lead to a .245/.310/.400 line in stints disrupted by the DL, and that the Reds will be in the same state of positional limbo with him this time next year (albeit at a much higher price to their payroll).  I'd nod since it's happened twice before.

He's not the Cal Ripken of durability, nor the Eddie Murray of offensive consistency, yet he's a very real and very talented player the Reds hope can just stay upright enough to reach his full potential.  There may be no larger wild card in baseball at this very moment than Devin Mesoraco, and while that's slightly terrifying to bank on, it may well lead to us marveling at his abilities like no fans can about any other catcher in all of baseball in 2016.

Cross your fingers.