Reds pair among MLB.com's Top 100 prospects
Catcher Mesoraco is No. 14, shortstop Hamilton rated at No. 34
CINCINNATI -- The Reds parted with a lot of young talent this offseason to make trades meant to help the club in the here and now. But the cupboard is not bare.Two Reds prospects -- catcher Devin Mesoraco and shortstop Billy Hamilton -- were ranked among the 100 players on MLB.com's 2012 Top Prospects list. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2012. Mesoraco was listed at No. 14 while Hamilton was at No. 34. This year's edition of MLB.com's Top Prospects list has expanded from 50 to 100 players. The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com's Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, closeness to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams.
For Mesoraco, who was ranked 45th on last year's list, his time to prove himself in the Majors is upon him. He will come to Spring Training expected to make the team and share catching duties with veteran Ryan Hanigan this season.As a September callup in 2011, Mesoraco played 18 games with 13 starts, including nine of Cincinnati's final 11 games. He was the Reds' first-round pick (15th overall) in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. "He's a tremendous talent," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Mesoraco at the end of last season. "He pays attention. He's going to be a good hitter. He's really worked on his footwork and his throwing. Naturally, as a young catcher, he still has some things to learn, [like] game situations."
Mesoraco, 23, batted .180 for the Reds with two home runs and three doubles. At Triple-A Louisville last season, he batted .289 with 15 homers and 71 RBIs. After initially struggling upon becoming a pro player, he has developed a good routine at the plate and has demonstrated that he can be a dangerous hitter with power."Hitting-wise, there are some adjustments to be made," Mesoraco said before the offseason began. "That will happen next year. It's about seeing the pitchers, knowing the pitchers and trying not to do too much. I have to have a better approach with at-bats, as opposed to what I've been doing." The Reds' 2011 Minor League Player of the Year, Hamilton brought electricity to Class A Dayton and the Midwest League. The 21-year-old set an organization record and led all of professional baseball with 103 stolen bases, having broken the Dayton franchise steals record by May. However, he initially struggled at the plate as he developed as a switch-hitter, hovering around .200 well into May. By season's end, he batted .278 with 50 RBIs and led all Reds Minor Leaguers with 99 runs scored. "I knew to make my season successful, I would have to finish up very strong," Hamilton said in December. "Coaches kept telling me it wasn't how it started but how you finish. I kept that in my head and had a better second half than first half." Hamilton is still considered a raw talent, a couple of years away from reaching the Major Leagues. That was especially demonstrated defensively, as he committed 39 errors in 2011. Many of them were throwing errors caused by rushing. "A lot of guys make errors in the early years of their career," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said during the Winter Meetings in December. "He's someone we think very highly of. He's a great young man." Hamilton was the Reds' second-round pick in the 2009 Draft (57th overall) and is likely to begin 2012 in Class A Advanced Bakersfield. Although there is speculation that he could eventually shift to second base or the outfield, the Reds' plan for now is to keep Hamilton at shortstop. "We've basically told our people to keep him at shortstop until he proves he can't play there," Jocketty said. "They're too hard to find -- quality, switch-hitting shortstops."