Originally written on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 4/25/12

The Cincinnati Reds, one of the preseason favorites to win the NL Central, are 8-9, 2.5 games out of first place. On the surface, that looks fine. But dig a little deeper, and you realize that the team's offense has been awful. They're htiting just .229 with only 11 homers, and with the entire team struggling, it's hard to point the blame at one person. Well, I can think of at least one change that will benefit the team a lot: starting Devin Mesoraco five days a week, and turning Ryan Hanigan into the full-blown backup.

Mesoraco was a preseason favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year award. Last season in AAA Louisville, Mesoraco had an .855 OPS and 15 homers, numbers good enough for the team to throw him on the Opening Day roster this season. However, he's only played in eight games and gotten 27 plate appearances. He hasn't started since Saturday against the Cubs. Mesoraco isn't really struggling this year. He's hitting .304/.407/.348, and while his power is slumping, that's something that can easily change when you're dealing with a sample size this small.

Instead of starting the super talented and young Mesoraco (who I'm a fan of immensely for sharing a birthday with me), Dusty Baker is instead giving the majority of plate appearances behind the plate to 31 year-old Ryan Hanigan. Hanigan is struggling this season, hitting just .222/.317/.250. Hanigan has started the last two games for the Reds, and I'm sure Baker is going to spout off the usual "hot hand" nonsense. Hanigan has six hits in his last five games, but has just one extra base hit and two walks over that time period. For the record, Mesoraco has five hits in his last 11 at bats, so if Baker really *is* using the hot hand theory, he's full of crap.

It's not as if a fellow blue chipper or aging veteran is blocking Mesoraco. Hanigan has a career line of .273/.369/.363, and last year, he hit .267/.356/.357. He's coming off of back to back two win seasons, but Mesoraaco's ceiling is much higher than that. I can understand easing the rookie into game action, but it's silly to continue to play the veteran when he's being outperformed by the youngster. 

Look what happened in 2005 with the Braves, when Brian McCann was the stud minor league prospect, and Johnny Estrada was the incumbent coming off of a three win season. Estrada struggled over the first two months of the season and McCann was called up in June. The two split time over the final four months of the year, with McCann getting more of a playing time advantage. McCann started three out of the four Braves playoff games, and Estrada was gone from the Braves after that season at age 29. Or hell, look at 2010 with the Giants. Bengie Molina was the incumbent, and was a disaster on offense. The Giants called up Buster Posey at the end of May, he hit like a freight train, and the Giants won the World Series.

The Reds have a few problems right now, and giving Hanigan more playing time than Mesoraco is just one of them. If Dusty Baker doesn't budge on this situation, someone needs to get involved and explain to him that Hanigan isn't the answer for the Reds.

Photo courtesy of Daylife.com

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