Saturday, July 9, 2011

MLB Prospect Scouting Report: Devin Mesoraco

Devin Mesoraco
Age: 23
Bats: Right
Height- 6’1”
Weight- 220lbs
From: Punxsutawney High School, PA (drafted 15th overall in 2007)

Reds catching prospect Devin Mesoraco would likely already be in the majors if not for Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan.  Both of those veterans are having fine years as they split catching duties down the middle for the Red Legs.  Part of the reason the Reds brought back Hernandez on a 1-year deal (and maybe drafted Yasmani Grandal, another catcher, in the first round of the 2010 draft) was due to Mesoraco’s slow progress in his first three professional seasons.  From 2007 through 2009, Mesoraco only got on base 31% of the time and hit a total of 18 HRs.  Most of these struggles can be attributed to recurring injuries to his hands and wrists.  In 2010, Mesoraco was healthier and broke out, popping 26 HRs as he tore up Hi-A and AA, reaching AAA Louisville by the end of the summer.  This season, his first full AAA season, Mesoraco continues to rake, boasting a .303/.378/.510 line.  He’s just about ready for the big leagues.

Offense:  Mesoraco has terrific leverage in his swing and generates a lot of torque with his body by rotating his hips during his swing.  This allows him to hit with above average power.  When his hands and wrists are healthy, that could even improve.  His bat is quick and he’ll likely hit for a good average to go along with the power.  He’s about an average runner, unlike most catchers, so he may even add some value on the bases.

Defense: Mesoraco will likely stick as a catcher but he’s not great defensively.  He has a great arm but his transfer adds some unwanted ticks to his pop time.  Watching Mesoraco in the Arizona Fall League last year led some to believe that he’d have to move out from behind the plate because he struggled to simply catch the ball, especially from pitchers with good velocity.  Now we know that Mesoraco had suffered another finger injury that hindered his ability to handle pitches cleanly.  I saw Mesorcao catch 3 games in a series this year and he was much better. 

Overall, the Reds have an above average starting catcher on their hands with the potential to make an All Star team or two.  I think Mesoraco will be given every opportunity to win the starting catcher’s job in Spring Training of 2012 and contribute to a very good Reds team next year, as long as Dusty Baker doesn’t get in his way.

Friday, July 1, 2011

MLB Prospect Scouting Report: Yonder Alonso

Yonder Alonso
Age: 24
Bats: Left
Height- 6’2”
Weight- 210lbs
From: The U (Miami) Reds 1st rounder in 2008

Reds first base prospect Yonder Alonso is a name you’ll likely hear as a potential trade chip before this month’s trade deadline.  The Reds have holes to fill and Alonso plays a position they have filled with a guy who I hear is pretty good, Joey Votto.  The Reds front office obviously likes Alonso’s bat enough that they’ve pumped coaching resources into his defensive development (more on that “development” later) but his progress was slowed when he broke his hand toward the tail end of 2009.  He didn’t fully recover from that hand injury until half way through the 2010 season, finishing with a .296/.355/.470 line in 400 at bats at AAA Louisville.

Alonso has a terrific approach, running deep counts and working walks with impressive regularity.  He sprays the ball all over the field thanks to his simple (especially below the waist) balanced swing.  The bat speed is good and there’s some leverage in the swing though Alonso hasn’t hit for as much power as you’d like to see from a first round-first base prospect.  While some of that can be attributed to the broken hand at the end of 2009 I think a lot of it has to do with Alonso’s hip rotation (or lack thereof) in the swing.  He’s obviously not very flexible and the hip rotation that generates torque in the swing just isn’t there.  Some scouts think the power will come, but I do not.  It would have been here already. 

Alonso could be an adequate first baseman, but the Reds have been trying him in left field, hoping that he can fake it out there and come up to the big leagues to steady the revolving door of garbage (apologies to Chris Heisey, who I think is pretty good) they have up there.  They even tried him at third base but that went horribly, to put it mildly.  Alonso is slow of foot and is obviously uncomfortable in the outfield.  Even the most routine fly balls look like an adventure.  He does have an above average arm for a left fielder, but it’s more likely that he’s a first baseman only.

On the continuum of first base prospects, I like Alonso more than Freddie Freeman but less than Brandon Belt.  I think it’s likely the Reds find a trade partner before the deadline and that Alonso’s name comes up in the talks, maybe for someone who can replace Edgar Renteria’s corpse and Paul Janish at shortstop.  I think he’ll be an above average major leaguer.