Thursday, January 21, 2010

2010 Top Prospect List: #16 Devin Mesoraco, c

Devin Mesoraco
Height 6-1, Weight 220, B/T: R/R, DOB: 6/19/1988
2009 Redlegs Baseball Prospect Ranking: #7

Rob Neyer once wondered whether there was a "statute of limitations on an opinion." Neyer was asking the question in regards to Kris Benson, who continually earned big MLB money despite poor production by living off his status as the #1 overall pick in the draft. In the near future, we may be asking a similar question about Devin Mesoraco. But...not just yet.

Mesoraco, who has really struggled in adapting to the professional game, is still worthy of mention because of his tools. His reputation heading into the draft was as a fast rising prospect due in part to five solid tools and good makeup. At this point, he hasn't lived up to his draft position and he no longer looks like a solid five-tool guy, but there's still reason for hope.


The Reds selected Mesoraco with the 15th overall pick in the 2007 draft. He hasn't panned out yet, but it's difficult to fault the selection too much. Despite some quality talent in the top 10 or so picks, not many players after the 14th pick have developed. Unfortunately, potentially the best player in that draft was selected right before the Reds picked, as the Braves snapped up hometown prospect Jason Heyward, leaving Devin Mesoraco for the Reds.

Despite the slow start to Mesoraco's professional career, his circumstances have always necessitated patience. Mesoraco was drafted out of Punxsotawney High School in Pennsylvania, which quite obviously is a cold weather state. Prospects are much more frequently and easily found in warm weather states, where the weather simply allows for longer baseball seasons and greater opportunities to hone baseball specific skills. In addition, Mesoraco injured his elbow and required Tommy John surgery, which cost him a year of development in high school. Finally, as a catcher, his development curve was already going to be longer than that of other position prospects, so the Reds will continue to need patience with Mesoraco's development.

Mesoraco stands 6-1, but has added bad weight to his lower body (compare the high school photo with the Sarasota Reds photo). It happens with young catchers, due in large part to the physical demands of the position. Lower body strength can help reduce the stress on the knees, but also adds bulk to the lower half. Additional weight in the legs can rob a prospect of a bit of lateral quickness and agility, as the legs get thicker and slower. It's also something that can show up at the plate, as the changing body type can lead to changes in the swing. Ranger catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia seems to be an example of this, as he has added weight to his legs and his swing no longer looks as fluid as it did with the Braves. Maybe it has more to do with Salty's shoulder injury, but even before that injury came to light his swing simply wasn't the same. Fortunately, Mesoraco has maintained a pretty solid swing.


Mesoraco spent the entire 2009 season at high-A Sarasota, which continued the Reds deliberate development pace for him. After he was drafted, Mesoraco spent the 2007 season in the Gulf Coast League. In 2008, he spent the entire 2008 season at low-A Dayton. He has made a one level jump in each professional season.

In 2009, Devin was assigned to high-A Sarasota. In 312 ABs, he hit .228/.311/.381/.692 with a 76/35 K/BB ratio and 8 homers. On the plus side, he was in a tough environment for hitters, collected 22 doubles, and got stronger later in the year. Before the All Star break, he hit .200/.307/.343/.650, but after the break he hit a more respectable .263/.315/.431/.746. His best month was July, when he posted a borderline impressive slash line of .271/.330/.458/.789. In addition, he hit line drives at an impressive 20% clip, which should have resulted in a higher BABIP than .276.

Behind the plate, he continues to show a strong arm and signs of being a good defensive catcher, which will only help his cause as he climbs the ladder. In addition, he continues to show a strong work ethic and good character, which could help emerge as a leader in the clubhouse.

Obviously, his overall level of production wasn't inspiring, but his peripherals do give some reason for optimism. His walk rate was solid, he consistently hit line drives, and also flashed a bit of extra base power. Add in the fact that he finished up strong and will be in a home park that is more friendly for hitters in 2010 and the potential is there for a long awaited step forward.


As an amateur player, Mesoraco utilized very little stride in his swing, instead he used a rocking motion in his pre-pitch setup to load up for the swing. As the pitcher delivers the ball, he transferred his weight from back to front to meet the pitch. In utilizing this approach, he occasionally got out on the front foot to early, leaving him susceptible to good offspeed pitches.

In the professional ranks, Mesoraco made changes to the lower body action in his swing. Instead of the rocking motion to trigger his weight transfer, Mesoraco switched to a more traditional stride. The stride he uses is short and towards the plate, which closes up his stance a bit as the ball is delivered. His stance starts off square to the plate, but his stride closes him off a bit. Despite the change, he still doesn't incorporate the lower body into the swing all that effectively, relying more on his upper body and arms. His limited lower body action reduces his load and the torque generated by the rotation of the hips, which makes it difficult to envision him ever hitting for significant power.

Mesoraco utilizes a fairly upright and slightly wider than shoulder width stance. He uses a high pre-pitch hand position, as he holds his hands up at or even above ear level. In addition, he also uses a very high back elbow, which is at or above the level of his shoulders. At times, a high back elbow can make it more difficult to be quick to the ball, as the back elbow must drop before the swing can fire. Once the swing gets underway, he gets good extension out to and through the ball and finishes with one hand on the bat. His swing can get a bit long at times, which when coupled with a slightly closed off hitting position could leave him susceptible to good fastballs in on the hands, but generally speaking he does a nice job of centering the ball on the bat.


As each year passes, it's gets more difficult to be optimistic regarding Mesoraco. Even so, the circumstances surrounding his development warrant an additional year of patience. He was always the type of prospect that would have to travel a longer development curve, because of the additional layer of unpredictability inherent in catcher development. And, he did show signs of improvement in 2009, so he may be starting to figure it out. Fortunately, as a catcher, his bat doesn't need to improve too much for him to carve out an MLB career, but he does need to show something more in 2010. If he doesn't take a step forward next year, then he'll slide off this list completely.

Patience has been warranted, but now is the time for Mesoraco to make good on his ability. If not now, then it becomes increasingly unlikely that he'll ever take the necessary steps forward. For me, the statute of limitations on this particular opinion is one more year, but for now Mesoraco checks in at #16 on the list.


  1. I am Will,

    I always think of prospects in this way. If you make the majors legitimately by age 24 you are most likely a starter for most of your Major league career and chances are a solid one or better, and I tend to give catchers a tad more time due to the finer points of the position. Devin will be 22 in June of '10 and has a reasonable expectation to be in AA by then. Which most likely puts him in the majors at 24 or 25 in the worst case scenario assuming he doesn't stall somewhere along the line.

    I'd say this year will be very telling but I won't completely give up on him and will still consider him a top 20 prospect even if he doesn't break out in '10. As you have said and I agree the hardest minor league jump is High A to AA and as long as he just maintains decent peripherals in doing said jump I gotta feel that's advancement in itself.

  2. Will,

    Interesting comment and one that mirrors my thoughts on Mesoraco in a lot of respects.

    I do think patience has been warranted, but I also do need to see some more production. I'd be happy with a strong set of peripherals in 2010, but I'd also like to see some legitimate production out of Mesoraco.

    Your comment on his expected age at double-A got me thinking again on his likely 2010 level(s). I wonder if the Reds will send him back to high-A and make him earn the jump to double-A. He hasn't exactly dominated high-A and by proving himself there in 2010, he might end up better prepared for double-A.

    It's an interesting situation. Maybe we are simply advancing him too fast up the ladder. Maybe if he keep him down in A until he shows some true dominance, then he'd gain more confidence and start to open more eyes. At this point, I think I'd ratehr see him flash true dominance against younger competition than borderline adequate production against more advanced competition.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment.


  3. I hear ya on the moving him up the ladder point, that has been my problem with the Reds and Devin all along. They make guys who don't need it (I.E. Frazier/Dorn/etc.) redo levels and with a few specific guys they seem to advance them too fast Mes is one of those. He really should have been given the opportunity to get his feet under him to start '09 in Dayton and then after a month or 2 been moved to Sarasota. I feel like he has been trying to catch up his entire minor league career thus far. In a situation where your skills are not yet developed to the level of your peers at any particular stop then you are most likely hanging on for dear life and not neccessarily developing but surviving on talent alone. I think draft dollars have made the organization push him like this to try to sway opinion that they didn't make a mistake drafting him, which is highly unfair to him and a major mistake. Otherwise I don't see the rational in the way they have advanced him, his offensive numbers certainly haven't ever suggested he needed to be pushed.

  4. I am Will, sorry that previous post was mine BTW. I need to register at some point I guess.

  5. Will,

    First, I'm not entirely sure, but I think you can put your name instead of Anonymous without having to register.

    As for Mesoraco, to be honest, before now I haven't spent too much time pondering the rate of his progression. Still, now that I am, it's an interesting item to consider. My general impression of the Reds player development strategy is that they are very deliberate. They don't seem to rush prospects up the ladder.

    Still, that's clearly not the case with Mesoraco. They have pushed him up the ladder faster than his production would warrant. I do think it's an interesting question if he would be deemed a more impressive prospect if he had been pushed up the ladder with a bit less haste.

    I really don't know the answer, but it's interesting to consider. Either way, 2010 will be a pivotal season for Mesoraco and I'll be interested to see where the Reds start him and what they do with him.

    Anyway, thanks for the thoughts.


  6. I think the Reds in thier evaluations and promotions are much more concerned with periphal stats like line drive rate as compared to batting average.

    They seem to do a good job of putting analyzing all the numbers to determine what a prospect can handle.

  7. Anon,

    I'm really not sure what criteria the Reds use in advancing prospects. I tend to doubt they are actually looking at line drive rates of minor leaguers, but I could be wrong.

    Still, I've never read/heard anything about the Reds being on the cutting edge of the statistical analysis movement and Walt Jocketty was fired as the GM in St.Louis, in part, because he was unwilling to incorporate statistical analysis into the organization.

    I would imagine the Reds use stats and scouting reports to evaluate their prospects and determine the proper level.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!


  8. He will make it to the big league, 2010 will be the bridge to get him to island...?

  9. After reading this post, I would say Mesoraco has made the jump that you said he needed too? A great year by Mesoraco! 25 dingers 70 rbis and over a .300 avg. I see him called up next June if he gets off to a good start in AAA ball next year. Now we have Yasmani Grandal as well.