By now you’ve already heard the news that the Rockies traded Chris Iannetta and his over-inflated OBP to the “can we please have Mike Napoli back, our catchers stink” Angels while signing Reds free agent Ramon Hernandez as a replacement and mentor for prospect Wilin Rosario. If not, then wake up and check out articles here from Erik Hahmann, Jack Moore and Chris Cwik, all of whom have chimed in on the move. But while all that is certainly big news, my fantasy radar keeps me in Cincinnati. With the departure of Hernandez, the Reds will have a new catching tandem to watch and, more than likely, bigger possibilities on the horizon.
The obvious move for the Reds right now is to go into spring training with veteran Ryan Hanigan resuming his platoon status behind the plate, this time with rookie prospect Devin Mesoraco as his new partner. Hanigan isn’t the flashiest guy behind the dish, but he has been a dedicated soldier for the Reds over the years and is a solid complementary catcher. His bat doesn’t speak with great volume (a career ISO mark of .093), but he makes outstanding contact (career 91.6%), doesn’t strike out very often (10.0%), and can take a walk when he needs to (12.2%). I’d mention that delicious career OBP of .371, but since he usually hits 7th or 8th in the order, someone will remind me of the things I’ve said about Iannetta’s OBP in the past. Defensively he’s been solid — he can frame pitches, doesn’t give up a lot of passed balls and has a career 36.1 CS% which is well above league average. All in all, he makes for a great platoon partner if you can pair him up with someone who has a great bat. And that’s where Mesoraco comes in.
I’ve never been ashamed of my man-crush on Mesoraco who won’t even turn 24 until mid-season in 2012. I love this kid’s bat. I longed for his call-up back in June, praised him during the 2012 Catcher Keeper Rankings, and come 2012 Draft Day will be on him like flies on poop. He ripped through the Reds’ system in 2010 and put together an outstanding first full season in Triple-A last year when he, at a very slight expense to his power totals, reduced his K% and posted an .855 OPS. He also did plenty of work to improve his defensive shortcomings and proved that he was ready for the big time. His September stint in the majors was too short to even really acknowledge statistically, but based on his growth and his raw skills, he is going to be a fantastic asset next season.
So with next year’s backstop tandem set — I don’t see the Reds looking for anyone else, especially with the lack of talent in the free agent pool — another interesting scenario to look at in Cincinnati involves 2010 first round draft choice Yasmani Grandal whom the Reds also fast-tracked through their system. The former Miami Hurricane was selected 12th overall, has solid defensive skills and proved in his final year of college that he could hit with the best of them. He showed solid power in the minors and great on-base skills. The strikeouts might be a little high right now, but he’s so young that he could easily rectify that with more experience. He’s not going to leapfrog Mesoraco on the depth chart anytime soon and will likely spend the year in Triple-A, but you’ll want to keep him on your fantasy radar. Whether he plays his way up to the big club in Cincy or the Reds opt to trade him (or Mesoraco for that matter), he is a talent on the rise and worthy of a roster spot in deep keeper leagues.
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