Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fantasy Funkhouser: Making the Case for ... Devin Mesoraco

Can Devin Mesoraco turn regular playing time into fantasy gold? (blogredmachine.com)
Fantasy Funkhouser will review all things Fantasy Baseball. After all, life is a small sample size.

Amid the seeming endless string of homeruns being hit last night in the (currently) postponed Reds and Pirates game, the portly catcher for the Reds dug into the batter's  box for the 17th time this year and connected for his 3rd home run of the season. Devin Mesoraco is a shoulda been star whose sparkle has simply faded over the years, but his talent might be finally coming around.

The former top prospect has managed to ascend to the throne that many scouts and experts thought he would have been able to grab much sooner: starting catcher. The offensively talented Mesoraco hasn't been able to get a steady foothold and steady at bats so far in his career. The excitement for this prospect has been repeatedly beat down by a lack of opportunities and Mesoraco's inability to capitalize when he did play. 

Last year was supposed to be a big step forward for him as he only had to battle Ryan Hanigan for playing time. He ended up in a platoon with Hanigan who had a .567 OPS. Mesoraco certainly had a little more pop, and while it's usually fun to just blame everything on Dusty Baker, when many people saw Ryan friggin Hanigan performaing on a comparable level to the former Top 25 Prospect people were either indifferent or disappointed in Mesoraco. 

A top prospect fizzling out isn't breaking news, but for a catcher to be ranked so highly is something to take note of. Courtesy of Fangraphs, below is a chart of catcher prospects ranked in the Top 25 since 1990 (Year - Rank). Mike Zunino is just getting things going in Seattle, same for Travis D'Arnaud in New York, but Mesoraco had been in the bigs several more years than them, but to date has only amassed 609 total plate appearances in four years. 

Mike Zunino2013-17
Travis D’Arnaud2012-17, 2013-23
Devin Mesoraco2012-16
Jesus Montero2010-4, 2011-3, 2012-6
Carlos Santana2010-10
Buster Posey2009-14, 2010-7
Matt Wieters2008-12, 2009-1
Jarrod Saltalamacchia2006-18
Jeff Mathis2004-22
Victor Martinez2003-16
Joe Mauer2002-7, 2003-4, 2004-1, 2005-1
J.R. House2001-21
Michael Barrett1999-6
Ben Davis1996-10, 1999-24
Charles Johnson1994-20, 1995-7
Carlos Delgado1993-4, 1994-5
Javy Lopez1993-20, 1994-17
Todd Hundley1992-18
Ivan Rodriguez1991-7
Todd Zeile1990-7
Sandy Alomar1990-5

It's time for Mesoraco to start making up for lost time. Whether it was his play, his manager, or the old addage that catching at the major league level just takes several years to adjust to rings true, this season appears to be his shot to make an impact for the Reds and fantasy teams everywhere. 

A conservative approach would be to have him finish the year in the Top 12-15 of catchers. Aggresively, this could be a catcher that comfortably lands in the Top 10. The opportunity will be there for him to put up some runs. The Reds' lineup is far from a finished product, and if Mesoraco can capitalize on his hot start, he could find himself moving up to a more prime position - at least a tad closer to Joey Votto

In shallow leagues, I think he's definitely worth a gamble. Deeper leagues, he is a must add. If it is Mesoraco's time to shine, then fantasy owners should get on for the ride. 

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