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September 10, 2013

The Call-Up

Christian Bethancourt

by Jason Cole and Paul Sporer


The Situation: With an NL East crown all but officially secured, the Braves have called up top catching prospect Christian Bethancourt to give him a taste of major-league life. While Atlanta already has three capable catchers on its roster, Bethancourt should still get a few in-game looks this month as the club begins to evaluate its potential 2014 catching corps. Perennial All-Star backstop Brian McCann appears set to test the free-agent waters this offseason, and while Evan Gattis and Gerald Laid will remain under team control, Bethancourt is considered the Braves’ catcher of the future. If McCann is wearing another uniform next season, Bethancourt’s readiness––or lack thereof––will play a key role in determining what the club does behind the plate in 2014. The Braves could potentially acquire a stopgap to give Bethancourt a year in Triple-A, rely on the Gattis/Laird combo, or roll with the 22-year-old prospect.

Background: Since signing with Atlanta for a reported $600,000 in March 2008, the Panamanian backstop has been a well-known prospect due to his elite defensive tools and raw offensive potential. Bethancourt has lost some hype over the last two years in part due to prospect fatigue, but more so because his offensive production remains unspectacular and it’s looking less likely that he’ll provide a big impact with the bat. Still, he profiles as a strong everyday catcher. Bethancourt’s glove and overall presence behind the plate have continued to progress with age. His bat, meanwhile, has shown signs of life; after hitting just .243/.275/.291 at Double-A Mississippi last season, he repeated the level this year and posted a .277/.305/.436 slash line. Bethancourt entered this season as Atlanta’s no. 5 prospect, and it’s safe to say that his stock has remained steady, if not improved a tick.

Scouting Report: Best known for his solid athleticism and loud defensive tools, Bethancourt has the ceiling of a plus everyday catcher with the floor of a glove-first reserve. His most likely outcome resides squarely in between––as a role 5 (average everyday) player. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound prospect is a serious threat to base stealers, as he’s plenty agile behind the plate and wields an elite arm. I saw him pop 1.79 while nailing a runner at second base in April, and he’ll often flash even better times. Bethancourt’s receiving, game calling, and overall leadership skills have taken steps forward this season, giving him the profile of a 60-grade (plus) defender with a bit more seasoning. One scout who evaluated Bethancourt earlier this summer called his receiving skills “good,” while adding that he “wouldn’t call it elite or anything, but it’s plus with more instruction.”

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<< Previous Article
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