When previewing the catcher position for 2016, it’s all about Buster Posey and Kyle Schwarber, or so it seems. That’s understandable, of course, given the consistency of Posey atop the catcher ranks and the hype surrounding Schwarber.
Based on early FantasyPros ADP, Posey is the first catcher off the board (No. 30 overall) while Schwarber is the second (No. 53 overall). For those who choose to wait at the position, though, a steal could be found around No. 200 overall in drafts with Devin Mesoraco. While the hype and breakout train weren’t nearly as high on Mesoraco last year as it is on Schwarber this year.
Mesoraco was a popular pick heading into the 2015 Fantasy Baseball drafts, based on his 2014 season, in which he posted a .273/.359/.534 slash line with 25 home runs, 80 RBIs and a .387 wOBA in his All-Star season. However, Mesoraco’s 2015 season was cut short, as he had to undergo surgery on June 29 for a hip impingement.
“I’m great. Everything is going as planned heading into spring training,” Mesoraco told me last week, adding that the coaching staff and the trainers are pleased with where he is at. “I’ve been doing all of my catching exercises. I don’t have any limitations at this point. I should be good to go.”
Mesoraco admitted that the hip was a problem from the beginning of the season, which led to a .178/.275/.244 slash line with two extra-base hits (no homers) over 51 plate appearances in just 23 games. The former first-round pick saw his BABIP drop from a slightly-above average .309 to .222 last year before he was forced to miss the rest of the season.
“The hip was affecting me in more ways than one. It wasn’t just catching; it hurt my swing, too,” he said, even though the Reds kept him on the 25-man roster for pinch-hit situations. “I wasn’t ever healthy at any point in 2015.”
The Reds toyed with the idea of moving Mesoraco to the outfield last year to alleviate any pain from the hip while he crouched behind the plate. While Mesoraco said that he hasn’t taken any reps in the outfield and his focus in the offseason has been on catching, he will do what is best for the team.
“I’ve been working on my catching. I expect to do that and continue to do that,” he said. “It’s whatever is best for the team. I feel like I am a catcher. I can go behind the plate and catch a lot of games for the team. I expect to be catching, but if they have other plans, I’ll do what’s best for the team.”
Mesoraco, who signed a four-year, $28 million contract extension on Jan. 26, 2015, finished as the No. 3 catcher behind Posey and Jonathan Lucroy in 2014. He said that the extension and overcoming the injury won’t create any more pressure, and he’s going to continue to do what he’s always done.
“I expect a lot of myself. I don’t put added pressure on,” Mesoraco said. “I expect to go out there and do well. That’s about it.”
He could duplicate it, too, if he plays off his 2014 season, during which his numbers saw a big boost from his great .260 ISO and decent 9.3 walk-rate. But when assessing his 2014, he doesn’t always focus on the advanced metrics, saying that there are so many that he could “go crazy” reading them all.
“I wouldn’t say the Reds are preaching one way or the other, but I’m open to listening to any information that can make me better,” Mesoraco said. “You can go crazy trying to look at everything, but if I look at some advanced metrics or stats and I feel like I can implement those in my game, I’m all for it.”
If Mesoraco returns to catching full time for the Reds, he will see a new array of faces on the pitching mound. With the likes of Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Homer Bailey gone for one reason or another from Cincinnati, pitchers like Jared Lorenzen, Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb look to earn rotation spots out of spring training, with Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson knocking on the door in the minor leagues.
“It’ll be interesting. I get to catch some of them for the first time to see how they go about their business. I can pass on things that I learn and help them out as much as I can. I would say that the guys who stick out the most are the guys I saw last year with DeSclafani and Iglesias. DeSclafani was as solid as any rookie in baseball. He throws hard and well, and he competes. He does everything right. Iglesias has really good stuff, and he was unhittable at points last year. It will be interesting to work with them this year and develop that relationship.”