Backup catcher Victor Caratini shined in the Chicago Cubs recent spring training game, highlighting how crucial he is to the overall depth of this team
The Chicago Cubs spring training is underway, and it’s nice to put away some of the speculation and uncertainties around this team and watch them play baseball. Watching this team will hopefully make fans enjoy the fun-natured group and learn to appreciate this team for what it is. One of the highlights over the weekend was Victor Caratini. Having such a talented backup to the backstop will help add depth to a group that is lacking a lot.
Caratini homered in the Cubs spring training loss to the Dodgers on Sunday, highlighting an essential piece to this team even in a loss. There was much talk this offseason about a potential trade of Willson Contreras, leaving Caratini as the man behind the plate. While Caratini is undoubtedly capable of being a starting catcher in this league, having him as almost a utility man now that Contreras is (hopefully) staying put, is a much better scenario for this team.
Caratini sported a .266 average in 2019, with an OPS of .794 and finished with a WAR of 0.8. The value that provides in not only a backup, but a catcher in general, cannot be understated. Not only that, but Caratini also can play first base. Contreras and Anthony Rizzo are vast benefactors of the versatility he can provide and will ultimately help them stay fresh as the season goes on, while not losing too much production while they get to rest.
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Contreras is known for being a fiery player who gives his all every time he’s out there. Fatigue has been something that has negatively affected him, as we saw in 2018. An All-Star first half was followed up by a second half in which he batted .200 with an OPS of .585. The fatigue got to him and was not able to perform the way he knows how to.
Having Caratini as part of this group is massive to help someone like Contreras especially, as the Cubs are going to need everyone’s absolute best if they want to have a shot at the postseason. This team can’t afford another fatigue-plagued stretch run, or else it could be the end of the group that we’ve grown to love over the past five seasons.
Not only is he an asset to the offense, but he pays dividends for this pitching staff as well. He has become the personal catcher for Yu Darvish and has been a massive component to the resurgence of the right-hander from Japan.
Giving this staff two very credible and veteran options behind the plate is something not very many teams have the luxury of. Contreras and Caratini can feed off each other while tooling their skills to help the pitchers on this team. Two is better than one, and the Cubs are lucky to have what they have behind the plate.
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We hope that Caratini gets to see the field more this season, as he is more valuable than many realize. It is also the hope that Contreras does not move anywhere, but the Cubs will be in good hands regardless.