Since being traded to the Mets on May 8, Devin Mesoraco has thrived, culminating Monday with his fifth home run for his new team. That brings his season total to six homers, which matches his entire tally from the past three seasons. What has been working so well for him these past three weeks, and can he keep it going?
Mesoraco's big day against the Braves brought his slashline as a Met up to .261/.358/.630 in 53 plate appearances. Even including his sub-par stretch with the Reds prior to being traded for Matt Harvey, his .821 OPS ranks fourth in the majors among catchers with at least 90 plate appearances, tied with the Yankees's Gary Sanchez. His hard hit rate is well above his career mark and he is elevating the ball well while also sustaining a below average strikeout rate.
While he has generally struggled over his career, this kind of production is not entirely unprecedented for Mesoraco. In 2014, he was a dominant force for the Reds, hitting .273 with a .359 OBP and 25 home runs -- a performance that secured him an All-Star nod and even a few MVP votes. Only 26 years old at the time, the future looked bright for the former first round pick.
In the three seasons following this breakout, Mesoraco managed only a .605 OPS over 271 plate appearances as serious injuries continually knocked him off the field. Hip surgery cost him most of 2015, shoulder surgery did the same in 2016, and finally a broken foot took him out in 2017, just when he was starting to show signs of his bat waking up.
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If you're looking for a good comp for Mesoraco up to this year, you don't need to look any further than Travis d'Arnaud, who also enjoyed a breakout season at age 26 but lost huge swaths of playing time to injuries before and after. Depending on how he finishes the season, Mesoraco may end up being either a ray of hope or a cautionary tale for d'Arnaud, who is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Behind the plate, Mesoraco has earned raves from the team about his level of preparation and his game-calling skills, even going so far as to promote the young Tomas Nido so he could learn from the diligent veteran. The other aspects of his game are a little less notable, as both his arm and pitch-framing are moderately below average, though his blocking his slightly above average. He likely will not save more runs defensively than Kevin Plawecki, who is a plus defender in most regards.
And the return of Plawecki from the disabled list presents a conundrum to the Mets. Plawecki has long struggled with the bat, though he has shown clear signs of growth over the past calendar year that the team will certainly want to encourage. He is also an excellent defender for a pitching staff that is reeling.
But with Mesoraco's superlative performance at the plate, it's going to be difficult to take him out of a thin lineup, especially if he keeps up this torrid pace. And despite his past disappointments, it's not impossible that he will keep it up. He many not end the year with the .989 OPS he currently has as Met, but he doesn't have any underlying red flags that suggest he is due an imminent regression. He is simply seeing the ball well and hitting it hard, finally getting into a rhythm after years of lost time.
Nevertheless, the Mets do need to find time for Plawecki. Even if Mesoraco has truly regained his 2014 form, he is a free agent at the end of the year and catchers over 30 are a dangerous investment. As long as Plawecki's offense doesn't bottom out, he needs at least two starts a week, even three if possible. There's a good chance he will be the Mets' catcher of the future. Right now, though, Mesoraco is undeniably the catcher of the present and there is a lot to look forward to over the course of the season.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring