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What if Devin Mesoraco is actually Devin Mesoraco again?

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The catcher’s early returns have been quite promising.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Waiting for Devin Mesoraco in 2015 involved a lot of whens. When he gets healthy. When the lineup gets him back. When he’ll hit like an All Star again, henceforth and forever more.

Waiting for Devin Mesoraco in 2016 involved a whole lot more ifs. If he’s ever healthy again. If his fourth and final labrum will explode. If he’ll ever make it back to the Cincinnati Reds, if he’ll ever hit another dinger in his career.

By the time 2017 rolled around, a lot of us weren’t even using qualifiers regarding Mesoraco. There were no whens or ifs being tossed around, since the concept of Devin Mesoraco the baseball player had hibernated long enough for any real tangible expectation of him to go poof, too. It was one part how his existing surgeries would hold up, whether three stitched together labra would fall apart with the first hint of swinging a baseball bat. But it was also about the rest of him, whether a body bent on battering and bruising itself as an everyday catcher was only beginning to fail, the hips and shoulders and hamstrings just the first failings that may be followed by knees and wrists and obliques and such.

49 plate appearances does not a large sample make, but what Mesoraco has at least shown us so far in 2017 is that the repeated, debilitating injuries that sapped him of two full years aren’t going to hold back how he plays, and so far, how he’s played has reminded us all of the breakout star of the 2014 season.

That he’s posted a potent .317/.429/.512 line through 16 games speaks volumes about the early returns of what he has provided. But perhaps what has stood out more has been how he’s provided that, with a pair of homers, a double off the wall in CF just yesterday, 7 walks against just 8 strikeouts, and catching a day game just hours after catching a night game.

When you watch him, he’s carrying himself exactly like he did as a budding 26 year old star. He’s not favoring a side, tweaking his swing to compensate for anything. He’s not running the bases stuck in first gear with a busted transmission. He’s swinging hard, sliding hard, and taking foul tips to the chest in the exact same fashion that got him where he was before the injuries, and it’s that kind of willingness and ability to be fervent that should have you just as excited about the Mesoraco on display as the early numbers he’s posted so far.

He’s making $7.325 million this year, which is a lot of money. He’s due to make $13.125 million next year, which is a holy hell chocolate fountain of money. But with the nature of his health issues over the last few seasons - both ones caused and those dealt with preventatively - it’s been hard for the Reds or any other MLB team to look at him as any sort of asset at all. Instead, he’s existed as some sort of a highly compensated nebula with equal chance of returning solid as continuing to exist as mere goo.

That may well still be the case. Again, 49 plate appearances is insignificant for anyone, much less for a player who has lost the previous two years (and part of the one prior to those, even with its success) to injury issues. A year and three-fourths isn’t a ton of time to show the world that the injury concerns are completely a thing of the past, which means he’s all but certain to be a part of the still-rebuilding Reds through the duration of his contract - at least, it’s a near certainty that they’ll be the only ones paying him through 2018. But while the rest of the league may be scared off enough to not roll the dice on him, the Reds get tasked with providing him the perfect platform to show he’s still got it, and what we’ve seen from him so far in 2017 suggests there’s still a lot in there behind the scars.

It seems crazy to me that it’s been four years since I wrote about how Devin Mesoraco finally getting a full-time chance to play could be exactly the impact bat the 2013 Cincinnati Reds needed to get over the hump. Yet here we are, four years later, and there’s again a chance that Devin Mesoraco becoming a regular again can propel this already talented offense into another gear. The pitching on this Cincinnati roster obviously still has numerous hurdles to clear before the team can truly call itself a contender, but a healthy Mesoraco lodged in the middle of an already imposing lineup at this point would be exactly the kind of unexpected find that would fit right in with other once overlooked bats like Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, or Eugenio Suarez.

And that would be a damn welcome development.