Today, we have an argument in three parts. We know who the primary catcher will be, but there is room for debate over who will be number two. But you might be asking, why choose? Why not carry both? We’ve covered that, too. Our intrepid leader, Chad Dotson makes the case for Mesoraco and I take on Navarro.
Unless you think Navarro’s .318/.326/.523 line in 44 ABs is sustainable, Devin Mesoraco is the easy call. For whatever reason, I’m not sure the Reds are going to see it that way, however.
Let’s get defense out of the way first, since I expect that to be much of the justification for choosing Navarro on the post-season roster over Mesoraco. There’s little evidence that Navarro is much of a defensive catcher. His arm is average (at best), and as Baseball Prospectus noted, he has an above-average rate of wild pitches and passed balls, while being below average at “pitch framing.”
Certainly, Mesoraco is not Johnny Bench behind the plate, but he has a strong arm and has received high marks for his continuing improvement as a receiver. At the very least, the defense is a wash, in my opinion.
There’s no question that Mesoraco’s bat has not been good during this, his rookie campaign. He’s “hitting” at a .212/.288/.352, with just 5 HR and 14 RBI in 165 ABs, and a 69 OPS+ is almost Taveras-like (okay, now I’m just being silly). Mesoraco’s value, however, is not based on what he has done, but what he can do. There’s a reason Mesoraco was considered an uber-prospect by everyone. He showed a wonderful combination of power and patience in his minor league career. No, he hasn’t demonstrated that in the big leagues yet, but he’s only had 215 ABs. I still contend that he’s a good bet to start living up to those expectations at any moment.
Meanwhile, Navarro had one legitimately good year, at age 24 (in 2008, when he made the All-Star team). Since then, however, Navarro has posted OPS+ figures of 54, 49, 68. I don’t believe that Navarro’s 44 AB outburst in 2012 is enough to make me think he’s more deserving of a playoff spot, especially if there’s no discernible difference defensively (alliteration alert!). (And no, the fact that Navarro once played in a post-season doesn’t make me pause here; I’m not sure the previous playoff experience of the backup catcher matters at all.)
Two final points:
First, you are late in a game, and you need a right-handed pinch hitter. Who would you prefer to see striding to the plate? Navarro or Mesoraco? Give me the guy who has patience, and who has a little pop in his bat. (I think that’s Mesoraco, in case you didn’t read the first few paragraphs above.)
Finally, Devin Mesoraco is the future star catcher of the Cincinnati Reds. I think that should earn him consideration when this decision is made. Mesoraco has a chance to be the starter on some excellent Reds teams of the future. Navarro is a journeyman. To me, the choice is simple. Fortunately for us all, much smarter people than I will be making all these decisions.
Like it or not Ryan Hanigan is the number one catcher. He has been all year, and he’s played well. He’s a defensive dynamo, pitchers love throwing to him, and he gets on base. The one rub on Hanigan, is that he tires easily, which is why you need someone to back him up.
Except in the postseason.
Once the postseason starts, the Reds will never play more than three games in a row without a day off. Given that, there’s no reason to ever start the backup catcher. Hanigan should, and will, start every postseason game.
But you have to have a second catcher, right? Injuries happen, and in case of emergency, you have to have someone ready to take over. You don’t count on that, though. That is, you don’t put someone on the postseason roster because another player might get hurt. You put someone on the roster because they fit a role you need to fill. That player is Dioner Navarro.
I love Devin Mesoraco, I do. I thought he should have gotten more playing time during the regular season, and I don’t think he should have been sent down. But Mesoraco shouldn’t be on the postseason roster because he’s right handed.
Dioner Navarro is a switch hitter, which means, assuming the Reds keep Xavier Paul around, he will be one of only two left handed bats on the bench. The one knock on the Reds is that they are too right-handed, why exacerbate the problem?
With their second catcher (and really, there’s no reason to waste a roster spot carrying two guys who shouldn’t be expected to hit much), the Reds need someone who can be a bat off the bench in an emergency. Ideally, that player should be left handed. Dioner Navarros is left handed, and he’s the one who should get the roster spot.
There is a chance the Reds will carry three catchers. This is an interesting question because neither Mesoraco nor Navarro is likely to play much of a role if Dusty is afraid to use them as pinch hitters. If you believe that either of these players is better than whoever they’d be likely to carry on the bench if they went with two catchers and that that player shouldn’t be deployed because of the injury risk to Hanigan (making them, effectively, an emergency-only catcher), then you have to carry both.
So what do you guys think?