Ranking the NL East: Catchers
By Scott Bline
Sep 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves catcherChristian Bethancourt
(25) tags out Philadelphia Phillies catcherWil Nieves
(21) at home during the fifth inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
# 5 – Christian Bethancourt (Atlanta Braves)
The Braves top catcher from last season, Evan Gattis, was traded this offseason to the Astros for prospects. In 2015, the team will transition to a 23-year old named Christian Bethancourt as their primary backstop. Bethancourt has played a total of 31 Major League games, but scouting reports discuss the Braves’ catcher as athletic, a plus defender, and an elite arm behind the plate. His hitting tools aren’t on par with his receiving ones, but he projects as a .240 hitter with 10-15 home runs per season.
Since the early aughts, the Braves have had an embarrassment of riches at the most demanding position on the field. They have been able to pencil in All-Stars such as Javy Lopez, Johnny Estrada, and Brian McCann. Plus, they were able to watch Gattis crush baseballs and become something of a media darling last season. Forgive them a year to see what they have in a rookie as the team takes a step back to make a run for the NL East in 2016.
Fangraphs’ Steamer projects Bethancourt to hit .238/.274/.274 with nine home runs while playing stellar defense. In fact, if the projections were to hold (defensive metrics are difficult to assess at best, but we’re going with them for argument’s sake) Bethancourt’s rating of 8.5 would have placed him sixth in the National League for 2014.
The Braves also brought in some veteran catchers during this offseason. If Bethancourt were to struggle, Atlanta also has A.J. Pierzynski and the recently signed John Buck to compete for playing time.
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