Okay, enough of this one player per preview nonsense. At catcher, we will finally be forced to deal with a position where multiple players should see significant time.

Before I begin, I want to preface this preview with something: I do not believe advanced stats are doing an adequate job with catchers. There has been enough research now to show that the catcher’s ability (or lack thereof) to frame pitches has a measurable affect on the game. I expect this to be incorporated soon, but it’s anybody’s guess as to when exactly that happens. In any case, there will be some qualifiers with the catching projections that you won’t see anywhere else.

When Devin Mesoraco figured out how to hit, there was joy in Redsville. He was supposed to be good and we kept waiting for it to happen and then it did. Last year, it paid off as he was finally promoted to the majors. It looks like that will be a permanent promotion.

Ryan Hanigan was just the opposite. He wasn’t expected to do much of anything. He wasn’t supposed to be anything more than a Corky Miller-type. Great when you have some injury issues, but no one you’d want to trust over a full season. But he kept playing well in the minors and suddenly, he’s about to see his fourth full season of major league action.

I had assumed, as I expect you all had, that Mesoraco was going to be the primary guy this year, but recent comments from Dusty indicate that might not be strictly true. I suspect this is probably just posturing – trying to make the rookie work, that sort of thing – but it’s something to pay attention to. Unless he falls apart, I’d expect Mesoraco to start 90-110 games with Hanigan taking up the rest. I would also guess that Arroyo carries enough weight that Hanigan will continue to be his personal catcher. I guess we’ll see, though.

Beating, or even maintaining, last year’s performance at catcher is going to be rough. Hanigan and Hernandez did a great job, and for several years, made the Reds one of the best teams in baseball behind the plate. Replacing Hernandez’s part of that production is going to be a tall order for a rookie, but maybe not as tall as you think.

You see, this is where our first qualifier comes in. According to all the advanced metrics, Hernandez was very good last year. However, according to all the studies I’ve seen, he’s not very good a pitch-framing. Correspondingly, though there isn’t much PitchFx data on him yet, everything I’ve heard about Mesoraco is that he’s good behind the plate. Certainly, he should be a defensive upgrade over Hernandez and that makes any offensive declines easier to deal with.

And then there are the projection systems. They all really like Mesoraco and are calling for him to be a well above average major leaguer right out of the gate. You never know with rookie catchers, but they aren’t making the kind of absurd here’s-the-next-Johnny-Bench predictions we saw with Matt Wieters a few years ago, so perhaps we needn’t be so concerned.

Hanigan is much more of a known quantity and – second qualifier – he’s excellent at framing pitches, and so probably a little more valuable than any projections system gives him credit for. Offensively, he’ll hit for an okay average with no power, but get on base enough to be helpful, especially for a catcher.

If I take the projection systems seriously (I do), the drop of from last year to this year is much less than I expected. And depending on Devin’s defense, the Reds may even be a tick better behind the plate. Color me surprised. I genuinely expected to project a real drop off here. Anyway, here’s what I think we’ll get:

2012 Mesoraco Slash Line: .265/.325/.440
2012 Hanigan Slash Line: .270/.360/.360

2011 Catcher WAR: 3.7

2012 Best Guess WAR: 3.5

Projected Difference: -0.2

2012 Floor WAR: 1.5

2012 Ceiling WAR: 5.0

Redleg Nation Position-by-Position Season Preview:

First Base
Second Base
Right Field
Center Field
Starting Pitching – Front End of the Rotation
Starting Pitching – Back End of the Rotation
Third Base
Left Field
Season Preview Wrap-Up

(A personal aside: You’ll have noticed that these previews have grown a little less regular. Alas, I am not yet able to announce the newest member of the Nation. Rather, the Linden household has been besieged by something called prodromal labor. That is, my wife’s body isn’t in labor, but thinks it is an acts like it most of the time. It’s nothing serious, but we’re all very tired around here (especially Cate, who has been having pretty serious contractions every ten minutes or so for about two weeks), and I’d appreciate it if you could keep us in your thoughts.)