Report: Rays Seeking Catcher, Target Mesoraco | The Process Report

Report: Rays Seeking Catcher, Target Mesoraco

Although the winter meetings concluded on Thursday, the Rays continue to fuel the flames on the hot stove. James Shields-related rumors have dominated the post-meetings news cycle, and now word on the street is the Rays are continuing their search for another catcher to pair with Jose Molina. According to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, Tampa Bay has attempted to recruit a third team to get involved in a possible three-way trade for Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco.

Mesoraco is a familiar name around these parts, having been rumored in possible trades before involving Shields. He entered the season as a consensus top prospect, but did not perform as expected. In his first extended look at he big-league level, he hit .212/.288/.352 in 184 plate appearances. When it came time for Cincinnati’s decision makers to finalize their playoff roster, Mesoraco’s name was left off in favor of Dioner Navarro.

Mesoraco may not have been as bad as his overall numbers suggest. Despite starting the season at age 23, he walked at a higher rate than the league-average while striking out less than his peers. His slugging percentage was paltry, but his Isolated Power was close to the league-average for a catcher. Strong wrists and hip rotation should lead to more power as the rest of his skills fall in line.

The crux of Mesoraco’s struggles were tied to batting average. Making contact was not an issue as his contact rate was in line with the rest of the league; however, it looks like the type of contact he made was a problem. With true catcher’s speed nearly half the balls he put in play made contact with the ground. In addition to burning worms, he also had a fair share of infield flyballs—essentially automatic outs. He struggled in particular on balls located in the lower-half of the zone with any sort of wrinkle.

As a prospect, Mesoraco was credited to above-average hand-eye coordination and bat speed; attributes that figured to help him maintain solid averages as he advanced. That has not come to the forefront yet,  though those skills have not left his arsenal. Mesoraco, to this point, has been a mixed-bag defensively. He has a strong arm, yet accuracy eludes him at times. He moves well behind the plate, however, his footwork is subpar as well as his blocking. A combined 16 wild pitches and passed balls were charged to Mesoraco-led batteries last season. Meanwhile, there is little to suggest a position change is in order.

Mesoraco’s star has lost some of its’ shine coming off a poor showing in 2012. That said, he is a catcher, will be 24 on opening day, has five years of team control, and has offensive chops. His discipline and power showed last season, but his hit tool did not. Defensively, he is a work in progress, like many rookie catchers. Acquiring him may not cost James Shields—unless it is part of a bigger deal—however, the Reds are right to ask for a lot in return.

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