Friday, September 5, 2014

Mesoraco's Monster Breakout

Though inconsistent, Mesoraco has enjoyed a tremendous season (RantSports)
The Reds were swept in Baltimore yesterday, falling to the Orioles 9-7 to wrap up an ugly road trip where Cincinnati lost all but one of its six games. It's been an ugly summer for the Reds, who were very much in contention through the All-Star Break but have sputtered since, losing 30 of 45 in the second half as injuries to Joey Votto, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey took their toll.

One positive takeaway from this season, however, is that Cincinnati appears to have developed an All-Star caliber catcher. 26 year-old Devin Mesoraco's been a revelation behind the plate, emerging as one of the game's most dangerous offensive catchers in his fourth big league season. In the wake of yesterday's 4-for-4 performance, he's now batting an eye-popping .286/.365/.542 (153 OPS+) on the year with 21 home runs--most among everyday catchers. His 69 RBI rank third behind Buster Posey and Miguel Montero, both of whom have significant advantages in playing time. In the National League only Giancarlo Stanton has a superior AB/HR ratio. If the Reds weren't so helpless out of the race, he'd make a pretty good MVP candidate.

It's not unusual to see catchers break out later than position players at other positions, but Mesoraco's transformation has been truly stunning. He was a nothing before this year, a career .225 hitter with 16 home runs and -0.5 bWAR to his name. Now he's one of the best hitters in baseball. Out of all this year's biggest breakthroughs (Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, Josh Harrison, Brock Holt), none of shined brighter than Mesoraco.

The only issue with Mesoraco (besides subpar baserunning, but good luck finding a catcher who runs well) is his incredible streakiness. All year long, it seems, has been alternating hot and cold streaks for the Reds' backstop, who began the year on fire. He was hitting .500/.541/.870 through May 18th, only to post a .521 OPS with 23 strikeouts over his next 21 games. That was followed by a torrid three-week stretch ending on the Fourth of July where he blasted six home runs and OPS'ed 1.287. He leveled off through the rest of July, then hit the skids in August, batting a measly .228/.340/.354 with just two home runs.

September should bring better results for Mesoraco, and by the looks of things yesterdat, it already has.

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