For the last couple of seasons Devin Mesoraco has been the Cincinnati Reds’ catcher of the future. He is now the catcher of the present because the future has arrived.
Being counted on more for his defensive skills than offensive prowess, at the start of the season Mesoraco figured to rate behind Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Ryan Ludwick, Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce as an offensive contributor.
It was no surprise that Mesoraco became the team’s starting catcher, but as the season turns to the home stretch he has out-produced almost all of those guys at the plate. It has not helped the Reds playoff cause that perennial star Joey Votto has spent much of the season on the disabled list and that perennial star Brandon Phillips has spent a chunk of the season keeping him company.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Mesoraco, who is 26, was a Reds first-round draft pick in 2007. He is right on target and right on schedule. Following weekend play, Mesoraco had appeared in 79 games. His 20 home runs tied for the team lead with Frazier, who was a first-time All-Star selection this year. Mesoraco had accumulated 61 runs batted in, trailing Frazier by one for the team lead.
And who was Cincinnati’s leading hitter? Devin Mesoraco with a .293 average. In parts of three previous seasons, 18 games in 2011, 54 in 2012, and 103 in 2013, Mesoraco showed no indication he would be able to hit like this. His high average was .238 in 2013. High, mind you. He has been doing it all season and that’s why he was chosen as an All-Star for a first time, too.
Mesoraco’s hitting was characterized by a distinct lack of pop. Instead, this season, he is providing as much pop as anyone on the team while most of the squad has been underachieving at the plate or not healthy enough to get the at-bats. The fact that the Reds were 60-58 and had even a smidgeon of hope to qualify for the National League playoffs has a lot to do with Mesoraco coming through.
Only Sunday, Mesoraco made his case for being Cincinnati’s Most Valuable Player this season when he virtually single-handedly lifted the Reds over the Miami Marlins, 7-2. Mesoraco smashed two home runs, including a grand slam, to drive in six runs in that contest. His biggest swing of the night was the bases-clearing shot that represented his third grand slam of the season. No other Reds player has ever hit more in a single season, so Mesoraco claimed a piece of the club mark.
If he already hasn’t eclipsed a personal record in the statistical category, it is almost a sure thing that Mesoraco will top his previous bests in just about every listing by the end of the regular season.
However, the Reds need reinforcements. Whether it is Votto and/or Phillips returning to the lineup and playing at their usual high level, Frazier breaking out of his post-All-Star slump, or the rest of the roster shaking off its two-thirds-of-a-season hitting funk, Cincinnati needs more than Mesoraco to make a serious run for the playoffs.
Nothing more can be asked of Mesoraco, but he needs help.