Drafted by the Reds in the first round of the 2007 MLB draft, Devin Mesoraco was one of those homegrown players who everyone thought could be the next franchise catcher. And he was! Unfortunately, however, it was short-lived. Mesoraco made his MLB debut on September 3, 2011 at the age of 23 against the St. Louis Cardinals. He recorded his first major league hit in his only at-bat of that game.
Mesoraco’s career with the Reds illuminates clearly what injuries can do to a once-promising player. Over seven years, he hit .234/.309/.405 (.711 OPS), with 48 HR, 58 doubles, 2 triples, 162 RBI, 129 runs scored and 486 total bases. He reached the postseason twice, but had only one at-bat in the 2013 NL Wild Card game in Pittsburgh where he went 0-for-1.
You already know about Mesoraco’s best season, 2014, at the age of 26. He played in 114 games and hit .273/.359/.534 with an OPS of .893. He hit 25 doubles and 25 HR with 54 runs scored, 80 RBI, and 205 total bases. His wRC+ that year was 147, well above his career average of 94.
While he cooled off during the second half of 2014, he hit over .300 with a .984 OPS during the first half of the season, earning him a spot on his first and (so far) only National League All-Star team. That season he gave fans a glimpse at what could be and earned favor with the Reds, as they signed him to a four-year extension worth $28 million.
Unfortunately, the injury bug bit Mesoraco after 2014. Coming off that steller All-Star season, he was hitting well under the Mendoza line at the start of 2015 before undergoing hip surgery in May and being out for the rest of the year. In April 2016, he tore the left labrum in his shoulder and didn’t return until 2017.
In July 2017, he strained his shoulder and had a short DL stint through the summer. He came back from the shoulder injury and almost immediately fractured his left foot after being hit by a pitch and went back on the DL. Meanwhile, Tucker Barnhart was having an excellent season and when it came time for Spring Training 2018, Barnhart was awarded the starting catcher’s spot.
Despite the injuries, Mesoraco managed to provide Reds fans with some great memories. His best moment may have been the night of May 7, 2013. The Reds were facing the Atlanta Braves. Craig Kimbrel was trying to save it for Atlanta in the ninth. Mesoraco came up to bat and hit a ball that just kept carrying right into the seats, surprising even Marty Brennaman on the radio call. The next batter, Shin-Soo Choo, hit the walk-off home run to win the game.
In 2017, Mesoraco delivered another career highlight: his first walk-off home run on June 2 against the Atlanta Braves. (This one might be my favorite because I was at this game). He broke a 2-2 tie game in the 10th with a laser shot to left field.
No player wants to be injured year after year. Mesoraco happened to get the short end of the straw when it comes to injuries. And while he had some awesome moments with the Reds, he had to know that he likely was on the trading block in 2018 in order for the Reds to get someone in return (even if it was Matt Harvey) instead of just letting him walk as a free agent at the end of the season.
It’s easy to think what kind of player Mesoraco could have been at the beginning of 2015. But if fans dwell in the what-ifs, it can get overwhelming. The Reds have found a Gold Glove homegrown catcher in Barnhart, and all we should do now is wish Mesoraco well with the Mets and look back on the good times with fondness.
Thanks for the memories, Devin.