I'll admit it. I had pretty much written off Reds' 2007 first-round draft pick Devin Mesoraco as a bust. The catcher struggled through his first three professional seasons offensively and wasn't known as a great defensive player either.
However, something has happened to the 22-year-old and that sure makes all Reds fans happy.
Combined at high-A Lynchburg and AA Carolina this year (where he currently resides) Mesoraco is batting .316 with 20 home runs, 53 RBIs and an OPS of .997. I'm just blown away by those numbers, especially considering the fact he came into the season as a .230 career hitter in the minors who never had more than nine homers in a season.
But the Pennsylvania native has sure blossomed this year and it absolutely looks like he will be Ryan Hanigan's backup with the Reds no later than the 2012 season and perhaps as early as next season, depending on what the team decides to do with Ramon Hernandez. I tend to think they'll go with Hanigan as the "everyday" starter in 2011 (no, there is really no such thing as an "everyday" starter when you're wearing the tools of ignorance) and Mesoraco as the backup if he continues to rake for the rest of this season. He's putting up staggering numbers and he's going to end up being the Reds' minor league player of the year.
Adding to the intrigue here is that the Reds used their first-round draft pick this year on University of Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal. One thing is certain: For the first time in several years, the Reds have an abundance of young talent at the catching position. (This is presuming Grandal signs, which I'm sure he will.)
And I consider Hanigan young even though he's 29. I think he has several years left and is just reaching his prime. He was basically a backup in college (Rollins College in Florida) because the starting catcher was the coach's son or something to that effect, but Hanigan has worked his way up the ladder and has turned into a nice weapon for the Reds. He's good offensively and I especially like his defense, the way he calls a game and the manner in which he handles the pitching staff in general.
Therefore, with Hanigan, Mesoraco and the 22-year-old Grandal, the Reds appear to be set at the position for perhaps the next decade.
I also find it interesting that the Reds continue to tap into the Cuban market like a cigar aficionado. Grandal was born in Cuba and so was 2008 first-round pick/first baseman Yonder Alonso (who also hails from the U. of Miami). Then there's Aroldis Chapman who is Cuban all the way and will soon be up with the big club as a reliever. That will be a sight to see. He seems to have settled nicely into the role at Triple-A Louisville and I can't wait to see him make his debut with the Reds.
Oh yeah, and there was the whole Tony Perez thing - certainly the most-notable Cuban to ever play for the Reds.
And no, Fidel Castro does not count. Just because he tried out for a Reds minor league team and got cut (the Reds used to have a minor league team located in Havana, Cuba, ... look it up) doesn't mean he counts as a former Red.