Victor Caratini cannot do much more to earn a big league roster spot. With injuries mounting, the Chicago Cubs need to bring him back to the club.
As the spring wound down, speculation ran rampant amongst Chicago Cubs fans. Who would earn the final roster spot heading into the season? Rookie Victor Caratini or proven veteran backup Chris Gimenez?
Caratini ultimately earned the spot for Opening Day. Meanwhile, Gimenez opened the season with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. This surprised some who figured the Cubs would opt for the more experienced presence in Gimenez.
However, on May 26, the Cubs optioned Caratini to Iowa. Gimenez got the call-up to the major leagues, likely as a result of a provision in his contract that allowed him to opt out if he was not in the big leagues by June 1.
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A strong start in Chicago
Despite being sent down in May, Caratini had a decent start to the season offensively. In 26 games played with Chicago in 2018, Caratini batted .262 with a .304 on-base percentage.
Caratini spent much of the 2017 season with Chicago, as well. He made his major league debut on June 28, 2017. As he went back and forth between Chicago and Iowa for the rest of 2017, Caratini played in 31 big league games and batted .254 with a .333 on-base percentage and two home runs.
Thus, Caratini may not have been an outstanding offensive talent in his first two seasons. But he has certainly hit well enough to retain a roster spot over some other options.
Tearing up the minors
After getting off to a decent start in Chicago this season, Caratini proceeded to hit well at the Triple-A level. In 30 games with Iowa this season, he is slashing .321/.414/.495 with a .909 OPS and 21 RBI. He currently leads the Iowa Cubs in nearly every offensive category.
This success is just a continuation of Caratini’s offensive output in the minors last season. In 83 games with Iowa last season, Caratini slashed .342/.393/.558 with a .951 OPS.
It seems pretty clear that Caratini has Triple-A pitching figured out. It would do him well to be challenged at the major league level again soon.
Better than the alternative
Not only is Caratini tearing up the minor leagues right now, but in his time at both levels this season, he has proven he is superior to Gimenez, the Cubs’ other option at backup catcher.
As Matthew Aung pointed out recently, Gimenez has been less than spectacular offensively. He is batting .143 with just four hits in 12 games played at the big league level. Sure, it’s a relatively small sample size, but even so, Caratini earned that spot over Gimenez with his play in both the major and minor leagues.
I expect Caratini to get another call-up to Chicago sometime soon. And as both his and Gimenez’s offensive numbers show, it would be best for the Cubs offense if it was sooner rather than later. Gimenez may be a veteran presence on the team, but Caratini seems to have much more potential to succeed at the plate if given the opportunity.