Chicago Cubs: Victor Caratini gaining experience in majors
The Chicago Cubs have another young stud in the form of Victor Caratini – but what role will he play moving forward?
Eleven games into his major league career, Chicago Cubs’ catcher Victor Caratini mashed his first big league home run. The 23-year-old backstop connected on a Jacob Barnes offering in the seventh inning of Sunday’s contest against the Brewers. The result was a 417-foot bomb that put the Cubs up 3-2.
For the Cubs, they hope Caratini can continue the success that many elite prospects have enjoyed in Chicago in recent years. With great offensive numbers in the minor leagues and some defensive versatility, Caratini could work his way into a larger role.
Great numbers and a DFA earned a call-up
After slashing .291/.375/.405 with six home runs and 47 RBI in Double-A a year ago, Caratini earned a promotion to Triple-A. In 69 games for Iowa, Caratini exploded, hitting eight home runs and recording an OBP of .382.
In addition to Caratini’s solid offense numbers, the young catcher also played some respectable defense. Over the span of 558 1/3 innings between first base and catcher, Caratini committed just five errors. While three of those errors occurred as a catcher, Caratini recorded a 28 percent caught stealing rate while in Triple-A.
Despite starting the season with two capable catchers on the roster, the Cubs found themselves in need of a back-up just three months into the season. The need arose when Miguel Montero put Jake Arrieta on blast for being too slow to home plate with his delivery. After the comments, the Cubs’ front office was forced to designate Montero for assignment. For Caratini, this was the chance he had been waiting for.
Slow start, but a bright future for Caratini
Caratini is batting just .192 in his first month with the Cubs. Despite this, the youngster brings some interesting tools to the table.
First off, Caratini is a switch hitter. Looking back at his Triple-A numbers, one can see Caratini has been used more against right-handed pitching. As a left-handed batter, Caratini logged 182 at-bats compared to just 64 as a right-handed hitter. Despite that, or perhaps because of that, Caratini fared better as a righty while in Triple-A.
In that limited number of at-bats, Caratini slashed .375/.423/.547. On the opposite side of the plate, he was still able to find success. As a left-handed batter, Caratini slashed .330/.368/.533 with six home runs and 42 RBI.
While Caratini’s numbers tell us he is better against left-handed pitching, he has been used more against right-handers in the big leagues. Twenty-one of Caratini’s 22 major league at-bats have come against right-handed pitching.
Caratini is a doubles hitter with a solid arm
Along with Caratini’s ability to hit for average from both sides of the plate, the young catcher also incorporates some power into his game. Caratini hit six home runs in 115 games at Double-A in 2016. In addition to that, he hit another eight home runs in 69 games at Triple-A earlier this season. While the home run totals do not jump off the page, Caratini’s ability to hit a ton of doubles make him a threat at the plate. In 455 career minor league games, Caratini hit 121 doubles. That means 25.9 percent of Caratini’s minor league hits were doubles.
In addition to Caratini’s prowess at the plate, the young catcher can also hold his own behind the dish. According to at least one scouting report, Caratini’s arm is one of his best tools. In over 2,400 minor league innings as a catcher, Caratini committed just 15 errors and threw out 31 percent of runners.
Caratini may be dealt at some point
Despite possessing strong offensive tools, Caratini is rated as an average prospect. Without having an elite defensive presence behind the plate, it would be almost impossible for Caratini to wrangle the starting job away from Willson Contreras (barring an injury). In fact, due to the Cubs’ most recent trade, Caratini may be headed back to Triple-A.
With this deal complete, Alex Avila would replace Caratini as the Cubs’ back-up catcher. Because that is the case, Caratini will more than likely be optioned to Triple-A in the near future.
Even with this trade, a return to the majors as a member of the Cubs may not be out of the question for Caratini. With Avila’s contract up at the end of the season, the Cubs will once again be without a back-up catcher. For that reason, Caratini may still have a future in Chicago, but his role would likely never be more than that of a back-up to Contreras.
Trade bait or not, Caratini is still a good-looking ball player
Despite being blocked at the major league level, Caratini still has the tools to become a solid major league catcher. As touched on above, Caratini has the ability to play first base and perhaps a little outfield. That attribute adds value if the Cubs ever decide to trade him.
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For now, it would seem Caratini is on his way back to the minors. Perhaps it is for the best as the 23-year-old could use some more seasoning before he is ready for the majors.
With his first taste of the big leagues under his belt, it will be interesting to see how Caratini adjusts and if he can make it back to the show. At the very least, the Cubs hope Caratini can perform well enough so they can get a good return if they decide to trade him at some point.