With Opening Day closing in, we’re doing a few short posts on the major storylines that will likely dominate your conversations about the Reds this season. You can find the previous installment, about Zack Cozart, here.
Yesterday, I wrote that Zack Cozart, the rookie expected to fill the void at shortstop, will face immense pressure in 2012. The same can be said for catcher Devin Mesoraco.
The Reds are in win-now mode. They made that very clear this off-season by trading several highly regarded prospects for more established veterans. It makes sense. Nobody knows how long our small market team will be able to retain the services of All-Stars Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, whose current contracts will expire in the next couple of years. The organization need to take advantage of their talents while it has the chance.
But with Cozart and Mesoraco penciled in as starters, the Reds will have rookies playing the two most challenging positions on the diamond (catcher being the most difficult, in my estimation). Mesoraco will face the added responsibility of handling the Reds’ pitching staff, a retooled unit that is looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2011. Indeed, Cincinnati’s offense performed up to expectations last season, scoring the second most runs in the National League. But the pitching staff’s 4.16 ERA ranked 12th, dooming the team to a losing record. Fairly or unfairly, Mesoraco will be judged as much by the team’s pitching performance as by his batting average and the percentage of would-be base stealers he throws out.
This offseason, the team let Ramon Hernandez leave in free agency (he signed with the Rockies) and traded 2010 first round pick Yasmani Grandal to San Diego in the deal that brought Matt Latos to Cincinnati. By parting ways with those catchers, the Reds signaled that they believe that Mesoraco—widely considered the team’s top remaining prospect—is the catcher of the future. Now it’s up to him to prove them right.
The last Red to win National League rookie of the year honors was pitcher Scott Williamson in 1999. Just saying.