Reds go with catcher in first round
Power-hitting Mesoraco selected as 15th overall pick
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
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."
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.
"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.
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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.
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."