by Ray Kuhn
Fact: Power is down in the major leagues.
Fact: Filling out the catcher position on your fantasy team is also one of the more difficult endeavors.
Devin Mesoraco had a breakout campaign last season at catcher, which provided fantasy owners with solutions to both of those problems. As we reset for 2015, what can we expect from Mesoraco?
For starters I would expect the power to continue. Last season in just 384 at bats he slugged 25 HR, as he finally emerged for the Reds. With catchers you always need to temper your playing time expectations, he played in 114 games last season, but you have to plan for an increase of 75 to 100 at bats as long as he can stay healthy.
Attacking this from the conservative side of 75 at bats and allowing for the fact that he will hit at the same pace he established last season, that gives him 30 home runs and 96 RBI. That is production that would stand out at any position, let alone catcher.
But is it possible?
Even though it feels like Mesoraco has been around forever, his first big appearance was in 2011, last season saw him get his most at bats with the Reds. Both injuries (a hamstring and oblique last season) and poor performances have limited Mesoraco in the past, so a portion of his 2015 perceived value is based on him playing a full season – which there is value in.
The one thing you cannot question is his power. That is real. Last season per Baseball HQ his first half Power Rating was 228 (average is 100) and then dipped to 163 in the second half for a season total of 192. For most hitters there is nothing wrong with 163, but that does represent a big difference in the two halves – Mesoraco hit 14 home runs in the first half and 11 in the second half.
If there is one metric to point to as the cause for his home run explosion, he hit nine in 323 at bats in 2013, it would be his HR/FB ratio. Last season it was 20% (26% in the first half and 16% in the second half) which was just about double his ratio from each of the past three seasons. So you then have to ask yourself if that growth is sustainable and repeatable?
I think any regression Mesoraco has in the home run department will be counteracted by his true power, growth as a major leaguer and increased at bats. That said I still have a hard time expecting him to hit more than 22-25 home runs for the season.
What was also nice about last year was that along with his power he hit .273. That also was a marked improvement from his .238 the prior year, and there might have been some luck involved. It was a tale of two halves for him here as well, .310 and .245, and his Hit % followed the same trend; 34% and 29%. The problem is that the 29% is more in line with his past history. The other problem is that Mesoraco’s contact rate decreased from 81% to 73%, so he clearly was emphasizing hard contact and power.
Regardless of the holes I tried to poke into Mesoraco’s 2014 season, I still think he is a Top 5 catcher for 2015. Part of that is due to attrition because it thins out quickly after Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey, but I also do believe in his power. The difference is I just don’t want to overpay for it as there are some kinks in the armor.
Make sure to check out all of our early 2015 rankings:
- First Basemen
- Second Basemen
- Third Basemen
- Starting Pitchers
- Relief Pitchers
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