Table of Contents

Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's Devin Mesoraco!

Buckley "bucks" his trend of favoring college hitters and takes a high school catcher in the first round: RHB C Devin Mesoraco.

I'm sure a lot of others will post links to scouting reports and such, but here are some initial things I've seen in the past few minutes about him (my first impressions follow): scouting report:

Focus Area
Hitting Ability:Mesoraco has a ton of hitting ability, using a little leg kick in his approach, and doesn't swing at bad pitches.
Power:Mesoraco has plus power. Right now, it's more pull power, but eventually he'll develop power to all fields.
Running Speed:He's a fringy-average runner, which is pretty good for a catcher.
Arm Strength:He has a plus arm and isn't afraid to use it in pick-off attempts.
Arm Accuracy:His throws are always right on the money.
Fielding:Mesoraco has plus hands behind the plate.
Range:A terrific athlete, Mesoraco is outstanding at blocking balls in the dirt.
Baseball Instincts:Off the charts. He's got great makeup, he's very aggressive and he's a natural leader behind the plate.
Physical Description:Mesoraco is a strong backstop with a body type that might remind some of a Joe Girardi or Ivan Rodriguez.
Medical Update:Mesoraco missed much of 2006 following Tommy John surgery, but now is completely healthy and clearly is having no problems with his throwing.
Strengths:He's a complete package. He can hit with power and he can play defense with a strong arm and soft hands.
Weaknesses:He tends to get out on his front foot on his swing from time to time.
Summary:Mesoraco has answered any questions about his arm following Tommy John surgery a year ago and is on the rise among catching prospects. He's a complete catching package, with hitting ability, power, good hands, a plus arm and outstanding leadership ability.

Baseball Prospectus's Kevin Goldstein, who took Mesoraco #5 for the Pirates in his mock draft yesterday, has had this to say about him over the past few weeks:
May 25th: As far as real, full-time catchers go, scouts felt like they were put in the movie Groundhog Day when they went to see Punxsutawney High's Devin Mesoraco, as every time out he showed solid hitting abilities and excellent catch-and-throw skills. He could got towards the end of the first round.

June 4th: Every draft has that one high school guy, the guy who starts the year as a pretty good prospect. and then keeps going up from there. Mesoraco is that guy. He began the year as clearly the best player in the state, and a guy who was seen as a second- or third-round pick. By May he had entered the first round, and now, with three days to go, it’s quite possible that he’ll be a top 10 pick. He’s as athletic a catcher as you’ll find, teams love his projection, and he’s seen as very signable. Also, let’s face it, his hometown is rife with headline possibilities. Hometown hero to the Pirates at number four? It’s possible, if they decide to save a little money.

June 5th:
Pros: Very athletic catcher with good agility behind the plate and excellent throwing arm; his stock has risen quickly of late thanks to highly impressive private workouts with wood bats.
Cons: His power is still more potential than reality; he has an injury history (Tommy John surgery).

June 6th: A mid-first-round pick a week ago, Mesoraco has been highly impressive in private workouts, showing better-than-expected hitting skills with wood bats to go with already top-notch defensive ability. “He’s not the top hitter in the draft, nor the top defender,” said one team executive. “But when you combine the two, he just might be the top offense/defense combination in the draft.”

Today in their live commentary, BPro's Bryan Smith said: "A semi-local kid, this is a good pick by the Reds, as this catcher could have gone in the top five if things went a little differently."
My Take:
I like this pick. I generally prefer college hitters, because, on average, they outperform all other player types, but most of the good college hitters in this years' class (Wieters, LaPorta, Mills) seem to have already been selected. This kid seems to be a great selection for what you look for in a high schooler--good polish already, excellent athlete, good offense and defense, no obvious problems in his game. And while you don't draft for need, the Reds' catching in the minor leagues was extremely thin prior to this pick, so that's a nice side benefit. The injury history doesn't bother me much, because Tommy John Surgery is such a successful procedure that, on average, may even increase a players' arm strength and durability (see Gassko's article in the 2007 THT Annual).

And you gotta love that this kid is from Punxsutawney!

Toronto ended up taking the guy the Reds had been reportedly very interested in, HS SS Kevin Ahrens, with the next pick, so any hope of him falling to the Reds' first supplemental round pick are dashed. But we'll see who they take--there may be some good arms available then.

There's been talk at a number of sites questioning the performance of high school catchers like Mesoraco. I wanted to link to this outstanding study by BPro's Rany Jazayerli. While it's true that high school catchers were terrible picks from 1984-1991, Jazayerli found that they were excellent picks from 1992-1999, performing better than all other positions except third base. First-round high school catchers during that time period returned 18.8% over their expected draft slot return in WARP. Examples of picks that have worked out include Jason Kendall, A. J. Pierzinski, Paul Konerko, and Justin Morneau (the latter two were drafted as catchers and then moved to 1B). I really think that the Reds did well here.

Photo by Dan Walk of the Punxatawny Spirit