Chicago Cubs: Victor Caratini exceeding expectations as backup catcher

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

It seemed as if the Chicago Cubs were in great need of a backup catcher heading into the season, but Victor Caratini has stepped up big and exceeded expectations

One of the biggest issues the Chicago Cubs needed to address in the offseason was that of Willson Contreras‘ workload behind the plate. After the All-Star first half in 2018, we saw Contreras bat just .200, with an on-base percentage of .291. The wear-and-tear got to him and wasn’t able to produce when the Cubs needed him most.

Keeping Contreras fresh in 2019, to the point where he doesn’t start a catcher-high 123 games as he did in 2018, is critical. Many people, including myself, didn’t believe we had a valid backup catcher to accomplish this heading into this season. At this point, I am happy to have found myself wrong, as this team can’t ask for much more out of Victor Caratini.

Batting just .232 in 2018, Caratini didn’t do much to put trust in Cubs fans as the only option behind Contreras heading into this season. The Cubs had their most production behind the plate with David Ross and Miguel Montero there to back up the now two-time All-Star. It seemed as if fans were waiting for Theo Epstein to make a move for a veteran backstop, and it never happened.

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With the ‘spotlight’ on Caratini, he has done nothing but impress. So far in 2019, he has batted .301, with four home runs and an OPS of .889. Along with these numbers, he has himself a WAR of 0.6, ranking 28th out of all catchers in baseball.  Awe-inspiring numbers and Caratini has proved his worth to this team.

The catcher had his coming out party on July 3rd against the Pirates. Caratini slugged two home runs, with a two-run shot in the 7th inning as the Cubs trailed by one, ultimately setting up Craig Kimbrel for the save opportunity.

Sure, the Cubs found a way to lose in devastating fashion, and we will now probably look back at this one as the worst loss of the season, but we should also remember it as the ‘Victor Caratini Game.’

The significance of the backup catcher’s emergence is so crucial. After Contreras finished another All-Star first half, the Cubs have to plan to keep him fresh so that they can get the best out of him down the stretch this year. With Caratini playing so well, the Cubs can insert him into the lineup with confidence, while the all-star gets much-needed rest.

His play is also key for the trade deadline. With the front office already having to get creative with a minimal budget, looking to add a catcher for depth isn’t something they necessarily need to focus on. Thanks to Caratini, Epstein and Hoyer can primarily look to add another bullpen arm, and hopefully the much-needed bat at second base.

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It’s always great to see an internal spark plug show up, and having Caratini prove us wrong has been a delight. If the catcher can continue his great complimentary play, the Cubs will be in great hands and help this team avoid the breakdown they suffered at the end of 2018.