Bats: Both Throws: Right
Height: 5' 11", Weight: 190 lbs.
High School: Brownsburg High School (Brownsburg, IN)
Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 10th round of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft
Debut: April 3, 2014
Rookie Status: Exceeded rookie limits during 2015 season
2017 Contract Status: Pre-Arb
Arb Eligible: 2018
Free Agent: 2021
Junue 9, 2009: Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 10th round of the 2009 amateur draft. Signed August 4, 2009.
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So, all signs point to Devin Mesoraco being back, or at least mostly back, for the upcoming season. Barnhart has been forced into more action than I think the Reds ever expected him to get over the last couple of seasons, but they’ve been content letting him prove himself.
I have to wonder how much longer that’ll last.
It all depends on the health and play of Devin Mesoraco, of course. Barnhart will still probably get more playing time than your regular, run-of-the-mill backup catcher as they ease Mes back into service. The team still has to find out if Mesoraco will ever be able to handle resembling full-time catching duties.
With his injury history, boy, I don’t know.
So that leaves Tucker as the starting-but-not-really-starting catcher on the team.
Barnhart is a fine player, and I’ve compared him favorably to some of our favorite catchers from years gone by. He’s gotten 694 PAs over the last two seasons, and he’s played them perfectly fine. He’s had a good defensive reputation from the beginning.
But he’s just fine, and barring something of a breakout season in 2017, it’s worth wondering whether the Reds won’t start to look elsewhere at the position for more production.
Barnhart was the 14th most valuable catcher by fWAR in the NL last season (minimum 200 PAs), and that’s only because he rated out as one of the best defenders behind the dish. There’s a pretty clear cut-off between Tucker and the offense that was generated by the guys above him.
It’s no surprise that the Reds gave Barnhart as much leash as they have; they weren’t going to win anything, anyway. In 2015, they probably gave too much time to a 33-year-old Brayan Pena.
But, if Devin Mesoraco never returns to a full-time gig behind the plate, the Reds are going to want a little more than fine production from the position as they begin to inch closer to contention. I was happy with what I saw in 2015, and he even boosted his slugging percentage in 2016. Regardless, he still only had an 82 wRC+; a clear offensive drop off from a lot of the other catchers in the National League
Technically, there’s still time. Tucker’s still only 26 years-old, so another year of better production isn’t out of the question. And the Reds still aren’t winning anything this year, so he’ll get his shot.
But, Chris Okey was drafted in the second round of the 2016 draft, and is said to be pretty advanced. If the Reds really do have to live life without Devin Mesoraco, Okey is going to be ready soon. Oh, and their first round pick in 2015 is a catcher, too, and supposedly a promising one if he can stop getting hurt (stop me if you’ve heard that one before).
Tucker has a future on this team regardless, because you can always use a good-to-great backstop on your roster. However, if he plans on being the answer to, “Who is Devin Mesoraco’s replacement/split partner?”, a big 2017 would go a long way.