Reds go with catcher in first round
Power-hitting Mesoraco selected as 15th overall pick
ST. LOUIS -- Still playing in the Pennsylvania high school baseball playoffs, catcher Devin Mesoraco had Thursday's postgame activity all planned.Mesoraco and Punxsutawney High School won their quarterfinals game and repaired to Zach's Sports and Spirits restaurant in Altoona, Pa. It didn't take long for the 18-year-old to learn he was the Reds' first-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. "We finished the game and hurried over here, so we could watch the Draft," said Mesoraco, who was selected 15th overall. "It was awesome. The whole team and half the town were here, watching the game. We knew a little bit before. But as soon as the pick went on, it was pure joy. I couldn't ask for anything else." Mesoraco, who was 0-for-1 with three walks in the 7-0 win over Lewistown, was the first catcher taken in the first round by Cincinnati since Dan Wilson in 1990. He was only the third first-round catcher taken in the organization's history. There was only one pro scout on hand in Altoona to watch Mesoraco during Thursday's game. It was Jeff Brookens from the Reds. "It gave us a little indication there. It's a dream come true," Mesoraco said. "Cincinnati, you can't ask for anything else." "It's very difficult to find a good, quality catcher," Reds senior director of scouting Chris Buckley said. "I think it's a thin position all over Major League Baseball. We've been following him for quite a while. Our area scout [Brookens] begged us to pick him, and we liked that." A 6-foot-1, 195-pound player who bats right-handed, Mesoraco had his 2006 season partially derailed because of Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. He blew out his elbow pitching during his sophomore year and had a ligament replaced during the Aug. 31, 2005, procedure. Mesoraco said he was 100 percent by the start of the season. He estimated 15-20 scouts were watching him play in the early games and when he showed superb arm strength, his stock shot up.
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
"That's when I realized, 'Hey, we can go pretty far with this thing, and, hopefully, be a first-round pick.' It worked out," said Mesoraco, who was batting .467 with four home runs and 21 RBIs in 2007.Reds team medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek examined Mesoraco recently, and confirmed there were no problems with the player's arm. The Gatorade Pennsylvania High School Player of the Year, Mesoraco already has a scholarship to play baseball for the University of Virginia. But on the heels of his selection, he had no intention of matriculating in Charlottesville. "Right now, that's in the background," said Mesoraco, who will turn 19 on June 19. "Being a Cincinnati Red is definitely in the foreground. I just want to get out and play. Hopefully, as soon as we can do it, that's when it will be done." If and when that happens, Mesoraco will become instantly wealthy. The Reds' 2006 top pick and eighth-overall selection, outfielder Drew Stubbs, received a $2 million bonus last summer. The 2005 first-round pick, outfielder Jay Bruce, received a $1.8 million bonus after being taken at No. 12. Of course, the pick offers no guarantees, nor instant gratification for the Reds. When 2004 selection Homer Bailey arrives Friday, he will be only the second Reds' first-round pick since 1999 to reach the Major Leagues. The other was reliever Ryan Wagner in 2003. Wagner is now with the Nationals. As a high school position player, it could take Mesoraco at least four or five years to reach the big leagues. "We're very excited to have him. He's a very athletic catcher," Buckley said. Mesoraco grew up a Pirates fan and counted former Pittsburgh catcher Jason Kendall as someone he modeled his game after. But knowing he had a chance to play for the team where Johnny Bench had a Hall of Fame career had Mesoraco aiming high. "He's what everyone else tries to be," Mesoraco said. "Everybody tries to be Johnny Bench. He's the best catcher all-time. It's just a great honor coming to an organization that had a great catcher like that." With its first-round sandwich pick, No. 34 overall, Cincinnati selected shortstop Todd Frazier out of Rutgers University. The pick was compensation for the Giants signing Rich Aurilia as a free agent. Frazier, who was a member of the 1998 Little League World Series championship team from Toms River, N.J., batted .347 with 42 homers and 128 RBIs in his three-year career at Rutgers. He was a National Player of the Year finalist and a member of the 2007 USA national team. "I was just anxious to see where I'd go," said Frazier, who watched the Draft on television at home with 25-30 friends and family. "It's been a great day so far. When I got the call that I was the 34th pick, it was great. Everyone was excited and going crazy." Through the early rounds, Buckley carried over a theme from last year's Draft by selecting more college players. Of the eight players selected Thursday, five were from the collegiate level. Last year, 15 of the Reds' first 18 picks, and 34 of 50 overall, were players taken out of colleges. "We think we did well on the first day," Buckley said. "We tried to balance it out a little bit -- had a little bit of everything. I think [Friday] we'll dig in and try to get a little more pitching. We missed out on some today, but we like the guys we got, and, hopefully, they turn out to be good players." Reds' first day selections: No. 15: Devin Mesoraco, C, Punxsutawney High School, Pa.: Scouting reports rate Mesoraco as a power hitter who pulls the ball. Despite his elbow surgery, his throwing arm has rated well along with his good defensive ability. No. 34: Todd Frazier, SS, Rutgers University, N.J.: Owns the single-season (22) and career (42) home run record at Rutgers. Will go into the system at his natural position, but could wind up being moved to a corner infield spot down the road. No. 53: Kyle Lotzkar, RHP, South Delta SS, Canada: According to reports, Lotzkar owns a 94 mph fastball and a slider/curve to go with it. Has command issues that could make him more destined to be a reliever instead of a starter. Was the second supplemental pick received as compensation for losing Aurilia. No. 79: Zachary Cozart, SS, Univ. of Mississippi: Cozart, a second-round pick, was a first-team All-SEC selection and is a Golden Spikes Award semifinalist. He batted .304 this season for Ole Miss. No. 104: Scott Carroll, RHP, Missouri State Univ.: A 6-foot-5, 220-pound pitcher, this third-round selection was a 16th-round pick of the Angels last year but stayed in school. No. 109, Neftali Soto, SS, Colegio Marista HS, Puerto Rico: Scouting reports say Soto has raw power and above average speed. This supplemental pick could end up being moved to third base. No. 139, Blake Stouffer, 1B, Texas A&M Univ.: This fourth-round pick started all 65 games this season for the Aggies and batted .402 with 11 homers and 84 RBIs. No. 169, Drew Bowman, LHP, Univ. of Nebraska: The 6-foot-3, 190-pound pitcher was 4-1 with a 4.31 ERA in 14 games this season.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.