In order to rank only those that played a significant amount, we only looked at players that put in more than 400 plate appearances of work last season. For most positions, that should be fine. For the catcher position, it was a little more iffy. The top 30 catchers by plate appearances only averaged 451 plate appearances, and seven catchers played enough to hit double-digit homers without crossing the 400 PA threshold. Mike Podhorzer will look into Wilson Ramos and Evan Gattis, the most prominent catchers that failed to hit that mark, but there are some other interesting names further down the list.
Here’s the list, re-run with 300 PA as the minimum. Thanks Zach!
The most interesting newcomer to me is Devin Mesoraco. The 25-year-old Red backstop peaked as the #11 prospect overall by Baseball America in 2011, so he’s got some pedigree. Unfortunately, his defense was deemed wanting by his manager, and he went on to 589 MLB PA in the three years since he was declared ready for the bigs. He hasn’t wowed in those chances, either, slashing .225/.282/.359 overall. So what exactly drew me to trade for him in my 18-team dynasty with on-base percentage?
For one, the manager that so disliked his defense is gone. And his defensive numbers — by UZR at least — have improved every year in the bigs. If you look a little deeper, he might still have some flaws there. Matt Klaasen’s catcher defense rankings had him exactly middle of the pack after those improvements, and StatCorner’s framing report has him just below average. But! Important Progress! His manager is no longer around, and he’s worked his way to average. Should his bat come around, his glove won’t stop him.
Ah the bat. Here’s what’s so weird about his batting average and on-base percentage. Despite a better-than-average strikeout rate (17.7% career) and a decent walk rate (7.7%), and a ground-ball-heavy batted ball mix (1.24 GB per FB, career), he’s been terribly unlucky with the batted ball (.248 BABIP career). Even his line drive percentage (19.2%) is about in line with league norms. Yes, catchers have bad BABIPs (.286 this year, vs. .299 league), and he’s not fast, but Mesoraco deserves better. xBABIP says he should have had a .321 BABIP. He did pull the ball a bit (47%), but wouldn’t have qualified for the top 20 in that department.
Give Mesoraco a better BABIP, and everything starts to look better, especially if more playing time comes with it, courtesy of his new manager. Since Ryan Hanigan saw his offense crater, and has no power even when he’s going well, there’s an opportunity here for the young Red. A .260 batting average and 15 homers is within his reach, even if that sounds familiar and puts him in a scrum for anywhere from 12th to 20th in the rankings next year. But with a guy that has this much pedigree, good plate discipline, and a history of great power in the minor leagues (near .300 ISOs at two stops), you really shouldn’t forget about him.