Exceeding expectations is the theme of the first two months of the Reds 2017 season, with a subplot of young players showing improvement and maturity in their approaches at the plate.
He’s not starting today, but one of the most pleasant surprises has been catcher Devin Mesoraco. After missing essentially the last two seasons with various hip and shoulder injuries, it was expected that his road back to being the player he was in 2014 (.273 average, 25 homers, 80 RBI) would be a long and difficult one. Many questioned whether he’d ever come close to his form of three seasons ago, both defensively and offensively.
It’s still very early, but the eyeball test results indicate Mesoraco is making solid contact on a pretty regular basis, and he has had moments of defensive prowess, like this one last night.
Presuming there are no physical setbacks and Mesoraco continues to approach his 2014 play both offensively and defensively, here is an interesting question to ponder: Is Devin Mesoraco a member of the next good Reds team?
If we’re all honest with ourselves, very few of us in Redleg Nation truly believed Mesoraco would be a factor moving forward. We heard about what an impediment the kind of shoulder surgery he endured can be to regaining the swing he had previously. And of course, you can’t really count on a catcher who has had surgeries on both hips to successfully resume squatting more than 100 times per game in more than 100 games per season? Can you?
He is under contract through 2018 at what would be a very bargain rate ($7 million per season) if he even comes close to his 2014 performance this year and next. Already this season his WAR is 0.6, and his wRC+ is 117. Extrapolating his WAR over the remainder of the year to 1.8, that would put his value at somewhere between $13 and $16 million.
He’s only 28 years old, just when most players are expected to be entering their “prime” years. It’s fair to say that Mesoraco’s future is an interesting question for Dick Williams and his staff. Could he be a prime trade chip for prospects or even starting pitching help? Or do they try to extend him for a few more years in hopes of catching lightning in a hopefully injury-free bottle? Would Mesoraco give a bit of a discount since he has been paid $14 million in the past two years for essentially little to no production?
You also have Tucker Barnhart, who is above-average both offensively and defensively among starting major league catchers. Most of us in Redleg Nation assumed Barnhart would get us through the next two to four years before someone like Tyler Stephenson or Chris Okey arrives.
Mesoraco is one of many Reds who have exceeded expectations in the first third of the 2017 season. If he keeps it up, it gives the front office many scenarios to ponder that it probably didn’t expect. Many of us in Redleg Nation were thinking Mesoraco would simply play out his contract with some combination of additional injury and minimal effectiveness. Mesoraco’s reply to those like myself who thought that might be:
Devin Mesoraco to the people who said he was done pic.twitter.com/cIAlSAsza0
— Reds Group Therapy (@CinRedsTalk) May 20, 2017
So why is this game preview story about someone who is not starting today? To avoid the issue of why is Bronson Arroyo starting again.
As we know, Arroyo might make it through the Phillies batting order once or twice before they start squaring up his 70’s to mid 80’s offerings. Eikhoff has pitched reasonably well for the Phillies in the past couple of years, and has gotten off to a very slow start this year. If he finds his form from the past couple of years, it could be a long day for the Redlegs.
With Tim Adleman’s gem Friday night, the bullpen should be well-rested. Newcomer Jake Buchanan, who has a 3.75 ERA in 50 major league innings, could fill the long relief role if needed. Or, it could be Robert Stephenson, who apparently won’t get a start in Toronto despite Amir Garrett’s absence.
|CF Billy Hamilton||2B Cesar Hernandez|
|SS Zack Cozart||CF Odubel Herrera|
|1B Joey Votto||LF Aaron Altherr|
|LF Adam Duvall||1B Tommy Joseph|
|3B Eugenio Suarez||RF Michael Saunders|
|RF Scott Schebler||3B Maikel Franco|
|2B Scooter Gennett||C Cameron Rupp|
|C Tucker Barnhart||SS Freddy Galvis|
|P Bronson Arroyo||P Jerad Eikhoff|
News and Notes
Scooter Gennett is 2-for-6 lifetime against Eikhoff, whereas Jose Peraza is 0-for-3, perhaps why Gennett is getting the start today over Peraza, who has a 12-game hitting streak.
Peter O’Brien, we hardly knew ye:
— Today in the MLB (@TodayintheMLB) May 27, 2017