When you combine lavish prospect spending with an aggressive promotion schedule, it’s not difficult to see how the Cubs’ Minor League cupboard wound up relatively bereft of top talent by the end of the 2017 minor league season.
There are still plenty of interesting names, of course, but not many of those guys are going to crack the baseball-wide top 100 lists this offseason. Maybe next year.
However, when you narrow the focus down to just one league – in this case, the Pacific Coast League (where the Triple-A Iowa Cubs play) – it’s a little easier to grab some recognition. Baseball America just ranked the top 20 prospects in the PCL and the Iowa Cubs landed one name on the list: Victor Caratini.
The switch-hitting catcher (now with the Major League team) was the Cubs’ lone representative in the rankings after a stellar year in Triple-A. Indeed, his production at the plate (and competence behind it) earned him the honor of being named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year for 2017, and MLB Pipeline’s catching prospect of the year.
And with a slash line like this, it’s not hard to understand why: .342/.393/.558, w/10 HRs.
According to Baseball America, Caratini has shown solid command of the strike zone and enough contact at the plate to hit for average in the Majors. And I don’t want to spoil too much of the scouting report, given that it’s premium content, but I will add that BA considers Caratini an average receiver with a fringe-arm – which isn’t the worst profile for a projected back-up catcher with upside in the bat.
And, of course, given that Caratini was drafted as a third baseman and is a switch-hitter, it’s easy to dream on him being Willson Contreras’s primary back-up in 2018. After all, can you imagine having three catchers – a lefty (Kyle Schwarber), a righty (Contreras), and a switch-hitter (Caratini) – all capable of playing more than one position in any given game? But I will tap the brakes on that by reminding you that this front office seems keen to lean on veteran backstops with a ton of experience (specifically handling a pitching staff) as their primary back-up. In any case, Caratini’s presence in the system is quite welcomed.
Stepping aside, I feel compelled to point out that, of the 20 ranked players, nearly half were members of the Milwaukee Brewers (4) and St. Louis Cardinals (5) organizations. That’s a whole lot of impending talent for the Cubs’ rivals. But hey, the Cubs have a lot of young talent already at the Major League level, and at least one right there in Caratini. So there’s that.