Two, actually.

In an unexpected development, the Cincinnati Reds have acquired two of the top right-handed power hitters in the National League. Their names are Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco.

You want the Reds to trade the farm, the Cuban Missile and/or frontline starting pitching for Giancarlo Stanton? Devin the Destroyer’s power numbers are higher than Stanton’s.

Much has rightly been made of the need for the Reds to acquire a right-handed slugger to pair with Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. After Ryan Ludwick’s shoulder injury vanquished any thought the veteran left fielder could provide that pop in the middle of the Reds order, it had become obvious that the club’s top need since April 2013 was finding that bat. Walt Jocketty, to the extent he tried, swung and missed for more than a year.

It’s not exactly a new situation for the organization. The Reds haven’t enjoyed consistent right-handed power since Greg Vaughn in 1999. Sure, there were flashes of Austin Kearns, E5E5, Wily Mo, Jose Guillen and even Ludwick in 2012. But compare that list to the corresponding lefties: Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., Josh Hamilton, Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. The Reds built a short right porch and a team to go with it.

But now, to the great fortune of the Cincinnati Reds, there is early, tentative evidence that not just one, but two big right-handed bats have emerged.

Two measures of power hitting are the statistics SLG (slugging percentage) and ISO (isolated power). They have different formulas – with the largest variance being that hitters get credit for singles under SLG. ISO is a more precise measure of raw power. But the difference doesn’t matter for this post. Look at whichever of the two you prefer.

To identify the best power hitters in the National League, let’s take the top thirty as rated by either of these metrics. Thirty is an average of two hitters per team. For players with over 100 plate appearances in 2014, to be in the top thirty, you need a SLG of over .475 (28 hitters > .475) and an ISO of more than .200 (27 hitters).

Todd Frazier has a SLG of .518 (16th) and an ISO of .239 (13th). Devin Mesoraco has a SLG of .609 (2nd) and ISO of .304 (2nd). First in both categories is the high-altitude wonderboy, Troy Tulowitzki.

To put it in back-of-the-baseball-card terms, if Frazier gets 600 plate appearances (his number last season) and hits home runs at the current rate, he’ll end the year with 32. If Mesoraco gets 420 plate appearances and keeps this pace up, he’ll hit 30. For context, only three players hit 30 home runs in the NL last year.

In Frazier’s (28) case, he’s not only exceeding his sophomore slump output, he’s bettering his outstanding 2012 (.498/.225). There are solid reasons to believe the good news that he’ll sustain it. The data shows Frazier has substantially improved his line drive rate and plate discipline.

Devin Mesoraco, at age 25, is still finding his level. He’s dramatically increased his line drive and fly ball rates. Mesoraco’s rate of home runs as a percent of fly balls has skyrocketed. And if you’ve watched him play, you know his homers aren’t cheapies.

Comparing Mesoraco’s 2014 to his previous major league numbers doesn’t make much sense because he’s still developing and never had sustained regular playing time. Yes, of course, he’s extremely unlikely to hit like this for six months, but his AA and AAA track record indicates he can sustain a SLG over .475 and ISO over .200. Even as his batting average slumped in May, his SLG stayed high (.609) and his ISO actually improved (.370).

Frazier and Mesoraco have flaws in their approach and they will go through slumps like any hitter, to be sure. And it’s too soon to state with any certainty that either one can continue to hit like All-Stars.

But if the Reds had actually acquired two big right-handed bats for their 2014 line-up, this is exactly what it would look like.

12 Responses

  1. B-town fan

    Agree with everything said. The only caveat I would have is Mesoraco. He is murdering the fastball. Pitchers are starting to throw a lot of curveballs to him now. Have to wait and see how he adjusts to that.

  2. enigma

    I like Frazier. You can tell he wants to win as much as anybody on the other team. I like that in Phillips, too.

    Mesoraco is going to be an All-Star. His swing is compact and the development has been rapid. Excellent signs for an emerging ballplayer.

  3. ToddAlmighty

    Good stats, but minus a lot of points for being dirty with the article title and the “Breaking:” stuff in the Titanic Struggle Recap. Made me significantly less interested in the contents of the article once I found out it wasn’t serious than if it had just been direct about what the article was about.

    • ToddAlmighty

      I just thought for a second that the milk cartons I sent out with “MISSING: Walt Jocketty. Since December 13th, 2012” had finally produced some results.

      I did forget to mention the Stanton picture, you’re right. I’m glad the Reds offense is supporting someone, just wish some of those runs could be spread out a bit to reduce the shutouts and lack of support for Cueto, Leake, and Cingrani.

  4. Dale Pearl

    Great writeup Steve. I was wrong about Frazier and proud to admit it. I thought his sophmore numbers would be duplicated this year. He appears to be a great team player as well. Mesoraco i always hoped to see him succeed and here we are. Such a bummer that we cant get all the guys clicking at the same time. Imagine Votto, frazier, bruce, mesoraco all on a hot streak at the same time…. Yeah that just might be enough to sustain a 10 game winning streak!

    • redmountain

      Dave P and Sultan-Come off the Stanton thing. It is exactly to the point; so many have complained about the lack of a RH power bat. They have two and if Votto and Bruce can start to hit or recover whatever, the line-up is pretty good.

  5. Tom Haxby

    I would trade Chapman for Stanton in heartbeat. Stanton is going to be a everyday superstar in the league, and well, Chapman will pitch 50-60 games and about 60-70 innings. Closers are a dime-a-dozen and only pitch when your team is ahead. Not when they are getting shutout.

      • Reed Tom

        It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. The Marlins need more Latinos in their new ballpark and Chapman would be a draw.

    • ToddAlmighty

      We were also certain that continuing the give the bulk of the catching to a hurt and extremely poor hitting Hanigan rather than letting Mesoraco become a starter was a terrible idea. Mesoraco is one of the two offensive bright spots for the team.

      We were also certain that we needed to unload BP’s contract because he’d continue to decline. His OBP, SLG, and OPS+ are all down from last year’s bad season.

      We were also certain that spending this much money on a bullpen was a bad idea, and now they have the 22nd worst bullpen in MLB and 14th worst in the NL.

      Most of us were also certain the Ludwick deal was a bad one. Now he is in year two of his contract and year two of negative WAR.

      – – –
      Lets not pretend like the Reds have a perfect idea of how to use their players.

      They routinely have a 1-3 in the batting order this season with all sub-.300 OBP players though I guess they don’t right now since their immovable #3 hitter is now “up” to a .269/.305/.393 line. They also keep putting Frazier at first in order to let Santiago play third (it’s only worked out once and failed like three times).

  6. zaglamir

    Well-played, Steve. I was gone all weekend for a family reunion and saw this on my phone. I got all excited. Then we hit a cell dead-spot in South Eastern Ohio, so for 25 minutes, I sat there staring at the screen, hitting refresh, just waiting for the details.

    This is a nicely put summary of where the Reds stand on the RH front. Perhaps its not as dire as it seems.