2015 2016 2017 return of Devin Mesoraco seems primed to finally happen on Friday according to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, who spoke with Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price about the veteran catcher’s status yesterday. With his 20 day rehab stint with AA Pensacola set to run its course this week, the team will recall him on Friday to open the series in St. Louis against the Cardinals, where we’ll finally get to see what the former All Star has in the tank after a trio of labrum surgeries over the last two years.
That’ll cause a ripple effect on the roster, of course, one that we looked at in detail just last week. How the team manages to juggle either carrying three catchers or the logistics to keep Rule 5 Draftee Stuart Turner in the system will be nearly as big of a story as Mesoraco’s return altogether. None of Mesoraco, Turner, or Tucker Barnhart have experience at any different positions, which makes it hard to envision the Reds deploying them in spot starts or late-game switches at 1B (a la Buster Posey) or LF (like Evan Gattis or Willson Contreras). It’s possible, I suppose, but not exactly ideal, and that would require that much more versatility from the other bench options or a necessity to not carry an extra bullpen arm like the Reds did to begin the season.
My best guess is that the Reds will drag their feet as long as they possibly can before having to make a decision. They’ll carry three catchers on the active roster and get Mes enough starts over a two week period to get a better look at how he feels and responds to the rigors of big league catching, at which point they’ll determine how to proceed with Turner. What’s clear, though, is that the team wants to hold on to the 25 year old former member of the Minnesota Twins organization, and for the sake of his future development they’d rather have him playing regularly in the minors than sitting third on the depth chart at the big league level. Negotiating how to keep him to circumvent the normal Rule 5 draftee waiver process will then become the hard part.
In other news, the play of Cincinnati’s defense through the season’s first 20 games has begun to pick up some eyes. We noted yesterday that at least one significant defensive metric rated the team’s defense as the best in all of baseball, and The Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans talked defense with several of the Reds’ best defenders just last night. Specifically, Rosecrans highlighted the continued improved defense from 3B Eugenio Suarez, who just so happens to boast the best early season defensive numbers of all MLB 3Bs at the moment.
In fact, if you check the list of the best rated defenders in all of baseball so far in 2017, you’ll find a trio of Cincinnati Reds in the Top 10.
One of those defenders is, unsurprisingly, CF Billy Hamilton, whose defensive displays and well-earned reputation have made him a consensus defensive superstar in today’s game. While his defense has again been brilliant so far this year, he’s gone about his business a little bit different so far in 2017 than in previous years. MLB.com’s Mike Petriello dug into the details of Hamilton’s positioning a few days ago, determining that Hamilton plays shallower in CF than any other CF in the game - and it’s really not even that close. That’s one part because of his blazing speed, one part because of the home ball park in which he often plays, and another part the scouting reports on the teams they’ve faced so far, but the reality is that it seems pretty well calculated to keep him playing in to maximize his abilities.
Moving on, we saw the MLB debut of Ariel Hernandez in Monday night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, and with it came the chance to see his 100 mph fastball on full display. While his Ryan Express catches most of the glitz when you first watch him, his secondary stuff comes also highly rated. Baseball America’s JJ Cooper remarked on one particular outing in Hernandez’s development on Twitter last night, and Redleg Nation’s Chad Dotson has a great composite recap of that particular outing. Honestly, after what we watched last night, I’m a) surprised we haven’t been talking more about this kid prior to last night, b) fascinated that he’d been in three different organizations and Indy ball by age 24, and c) wondering how the Reds could ever choose to send him back to the minors at this current juncture.
For more on Hernandez, check out his rookie profile posted yesterday from Minor League Ball, which includes both links to and quotes from friend of the blog Doug Gray.
Finally, minor leaguer Tyler Mahle spoke with ESPN 1530’s Mo Egger yesterday afternoon on the heels of his perfect game for AA Pensacola over the weekend, and here’s the audio for you to listen.