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May 19, 2012 posted by Chuck Anderson

2012 Fantasy Baseball Position Battles: Reds Catching

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Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds

Before the season started fantasy owners were excited about Devin Mesoraco’s first full major league campaign but were worried that he would receive limited playing time.  Those concerns were proven correct as he holds the smaller piece of a platoon with Ryan Hanigan.  The veteran has 23 starts to Mesoraco’s fifteen through Friday’s action.  There does not appear to be a change on the horizon so we are left with two very limited fantasy options.

Ryan Hanigan debuted with the Reds in 2007.  He is 31, but his intermittent service time slowed down his arbitration clock.  He is under team control through 2014.  He is a ground ball hitter with little power but strong contact skills.  His BB/K ratio used to be off the charts, but has slipped recently.  In 2010 it was 1.57, last year 1.09, 0.60 in 2012.  His GB/FB is 3.00, which is exceedingly high.  It will likely stabilize around 1.50 to 1.75, still too high to make him much of a power threat.  This hampers his production, as does hitting eighth in a National League lineup.  He scored only eight runs and has four RBI.  Both totals are tremendously low.  Almost every player with comparable playing time produces more runs.

While Hanigan is the epitome of delivering empty average, even that has some value.  Taking 2010 and 2011 combined his .281 average was seventh out of 35 catchers.  This year he is hitting .313, with a boost from a .357 BABIP.  While high, all his ground balls will keep it from dropping precipitously.  He grades well defensively and is throwing out 35% of base stealers.

Devin Mesoraco has the potential to be a big offensive upgrade but has not delivered so far.  A .216 batting average reveals some obvious problems, and while his .244 BABIP stands to rise there is no reason to believe it will be above league average.  In fact, being a slow-footed catcher could keep him in the .270 range.  His power is missing too.  In 2010 his ISO was over .200, in 2011 it was .195.  This year it is only .078.  His 7.1% HR/FB could rise but his power outage is more than a luck issue.  Something similar is going on defensively.  Base stealers are twelve for fourteen against him even though he gunned down nearly 30% of runners in the minors.  His professional results were underwhelming until 2010 when he apparently made the necessary adjustments.  He now must do the same at the major league level.

On a positive note his plate discipline is still strong.  His strikeout and walk rates are both excellent for a rookie.  They are also among Mesoraco’s best professional marks.  He already makes better contact and is more selective than the average big leaguer.

Cincinnati has a significantly better record when Hanigan starts, but that is more a function of the pitchers’ talent than anything he is doing.  Since April 14 Mesoraco has only caught Mike Leake and Homer Bailey while Hanigan handles Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Bronson Arroyo.  Those expecting the youngster to overtake Hanigan appear in for a long wait.  Mesoraco is not forcing the issue currently, hopefully he receives enough playing time to reach his potential.

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