A first-round draft pick by the Reds out of high school back in 2007, Mesoraco struggled with both his production and conditioning in the low minors in his first few seasons. He showed up to spring training 2010 in the “best shape of his life” and restored his promise by hitting 26 home runs with a .302/.377/.587 line across three levels.
Mesoraco followed up his breakout with a .289/.371/.484 line in 120 games with Triple-A and the Reds responded by letting Ramon Hernandez walk and trading Yasmani Grandal thus ensuring Mesoraco’s place as the catcher of the present and future in Cincinnati. The hype around Mesoraco, a power-hitting catcher playing at the homer friendly Great American Ball Park, was palpable, but he struggled against right-handed pitching and was unlucky on balls in play in both 2012 and 2013, setting the stage for his post-hype breakout last year.
What Went Right in 2014
Mesoraco exploded and had by far his best season as he posted a .336 TAv in 2014. He eased concerns about his viability against same-side pitching, hitting .269/.342/.541 against right-handed pitching in 342 plate appearances. He also hit 26 home runs with 80 RBI in only 114 games on his way to being the third-most-valuable catcher in 12-team mixed leagues (earning $13 according to Mike Gianella).
Power is Mesoraco’s calling card and there was a major change in his batted ball data that led to his .260 ISO. He started to hit the ball in the air a lot more often as his fly-ball rate increased from 34 percent in 2013 to 43 percent last year. He also saw more of those flyballs leave the yard, as he doubled his HR:FB rate going from 10 percent to 20 percent.
What Went Wrong in 2014
Perhaps Dusty Baker almost gagged on one of his toothpicks when he stumbled upon Mesoraco’s numbers?
While other owners might be skeptical of Mesoraco repeating his .304 BABIP because of his previous low BABIPs (.264 in ’13 and .234 in ’12), I happen to think he was closer to his actual baseline last year. His walk and line drive rates have been fairly consistent, but Mesoraco struck out quite a bit more last year as his strikeout rate jumped form 17 percent to 23 percent. He improved greatly against right-handed pitching last year, but his strikeout rate against righties was 25 percent, which is enough to at least be mildly concerned if we’re picking nits.
What to Expect in 2015
Entering his age-26 season, it’s fair to expect more of the production we saw from Mesoraco in 2014. He’s a legitimate source of power and should be one of the most coveted fantasy catchers in all of baseball. There’s even some room for upside for Mesoraco in 2015 as he only played 114 games last year. He went on the disabled list for a few weeks with a hamstring strain and finished with only 440 plate appearances. Mesoraco could potentially add 100 plate appearances to that total this year if he stays healthy all season, and that added playing time would boost his counting numbers, most notably giving him a chance to reach 30 home runs.
In redraft leagues, Mesoraco is an obvious target as one of the best fantasy catchers in all of baseball. As I mentioned already, there’s still some upside because Mesoraco could get more playing time this year. He’ll be highly coveted in all leagues and with good reason.
The Great Beyond
In keeper leagues, he will likely return another large profit assuming he was originally acquired on the cheap. His power and consistent walk rate give him a reasonably high floor and it wouldn’t be a humongous surprise if he was the most valuable fantasy catcher in the near future. Mesoraco is even more valuable in deeper leagues as the position has thinned some with Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana losing their eligibility this year. His value is currently pretty high in keeper formats and should remain so over the next few years. Mesoraco is in his prime right now, and he’ll only turn 27 years old during the upcoming season. Along with Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy, he’s one of the best fantasy catchers in baseball.
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