In conjunction with the announcement that Matt Wieters won BA's minor league player of the year honors, BA ran a story about all the hot catching prospects in the minors.
You need a BA subscription to read it, but it's a fairly thorough article which names 19 catching prospects as part of a larger discussion about how to develop catchers.
Not a one of those 19 prospects catchers plays for the Reds mind you. Maybe Devin Mesoraco will have a breakout season in 2009 or 2010 and join those ranks, but for right now the Reds count as a definitive have-not franchise when it comes to catchers.
So what can the Reds do about it? Obviously they need to acquire some catching talent at the major league level (and probably upper minors as well).
In terms of development, the BA article comes with a built-in suggestion on how to build your own catcher - take a kid with good hands, a strong arm and some agility and convert him. Generally this works better with 3Bs, since they tend to have those skills.
And obviously you want this kid to have a bat too (as the article notes, there's no point in converting a kid unless he brings something to the table at the plate - the minors are full of non-hitting catchers).
So who do the Reds have to fit that profile? Seems to me the most obvious candidate is Juan Francisco. Admittedly, I have little love for his impatient plate approach and suspect there will come a point in time where better pitchers are going to get him out consistently with a steady diet of junk.
Yet he does have bat speed and power. If he can hit for average with a healthy SLG, it's a lot easier to swallow a lowish OB behind the plate. The other thing is, it may take him a few years to hone his plate approach to be major-league-ready. If so, he's got the time to don the tools of ignorance.
Another guy who's a little more advanced, but I think might be worth a conversion is Justin Turner. Granted, he doesn't have a big arm, but he's hard-nosed with a mind for the game. I suspect he'd be a quick study and a catcher conversion would definitely improve his future value.
I'm curious to see what others would do to improve the catching situation. Waiting for Mesoraco strikes me as too limited a plan, especially given the uncertainty of his future.