Victor Caratini is Getting Stir Crazy in Iowa, and He Was a Scratch Tonight ... (UPDATE)

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Victor Caratini is Getting Stir Crazy in Iowa, and He Was a Scratch Tonight … (UPDATE)

Chicago Cubs

The narrative surrounding the Cubs’ back-up catcher position has been uniquely provocative for about four seasons now.

Back in 2015, the Cubs signed a “personal catcher” for Jon Lester by the name of David Ross, and at first, the signing wasn’t particularly well-received. Eventually in 2016, however, Ross became one of the most beloved players on the most memorable Cubs team in franchise history and the rest, well, we all know how it went.

A year later, back-up catcher Miguel Montero was unexpectedly bounced from the team mid-season after some post-game comments about his teammates rubbed the front office the wrong way. He was then replaced with arguably the best hitting back-up catcher in baseball, Alex Avila, whom the Cubs traded for at the 2017 deadline as part of a big, expensive package meant to lead the Cubs back to the World Series.

Then, this offseason, the Cubs signed another “personal catcher” type, Chris Gimenez, whose presence may have slightly helped reel in a bigger fish, Yu Darvish, but Gimenez didn’t win the job out of Spring Training as expected. Instead, quality catching prospect Victor Caratini played his way onto the roster and excited Cubs fans with his promising combination of offensive and defensive versatility – as well as some huge numbers in the upper minors. But that’s not where the drama ended.

Caratini didn’t hit overwhelmingly well in his 26 games/69 plate appearances this season, which, combined with his still-developing defensive contributions and a June opt-out for Gimenez gave the front office all the reason they needed to make a switch.

On May 26th, the Cubs sent Caratini to Iowa – a move he was openly and understandably unhappy about – and called up Gimenez. But because the Cubs back-up catcher job needs to always be saucy, the road wasn’t smooth from there. Gimenez has been far worse at the plate than Caratini was (he literally has a 2 wRC+ (it may only be 32 PAs, but that is about as bad as it gets)) and has otherwise been only fine defensively.

Meanwhile, Caratini has slashed .321/.417/.491 (141 wRC+) in 132 Triple-A plate appearances since being demoted, with a sky-high walk rate approaching 14%. And because of that Minor League cake walk, he’s going a little stir crazy down in Iowa and letting us know about it: “My numbers (here) — there’s nothing to improve (on) in this league,” Caratini said.

When pressed on what he thinks he can do to get back up to the big leagues, Caratini said that he doesn’t know what else he can do other than getting lucky. Needless to say, his frustration is palpable. It also may be justified, knowing that if you can handle AAA pitching, there’s not a lot you can do to get over that developmental hump without consistently facing big league pitching.

But is he getting another shot soon? Or is something else going down? Well, here’s the scoop tonight:

We’ll keep our eyes open for movement on that front, which could plausibly be a call-up, an injury (no thank you), or a trade (seems unlikely at this point of the month and given the state of the Cubs’ catching behind Contreras, but not impossible, I suppose).

If we’re talking promotion, then it will remain the case that Caratini doesn’t see a ton of playing time to work on that big league skillset.

Willson Contreras is already entrenched as one of the most productive offensive and defensive catchers in baseball/on the Cubs and seems to be the sort of catcher that likes to play a lot more than most guys. At the same time, Anthony Rizzo is the heart of the Cubs roster and isn’t moving off first anytime soon. So if Caratini really wants to be in the big leagues *right now*, it’d have to be on the bench.

And maybe he does want that. Maybe being in the big leagues and playing sporadically is more useful to him that crushing minor league pitching, which he already knows he can do, while developing and showcasing his skills to his and other teams. Then again, Caratini isn’t the best defensive catcher in baseball, and maybe there is still work he could be doing at Iowa on that front. And, at worst, he’ll be back up with the big league team in a little under two months when rosters expand for September anyway.

Let’s see what happens with this word of a scratch tonight. Keep in mind that Gimenez doesn’t have minor league options available, so he’d have to clear waivers and accept an assignment to Iowa to stay in the organization if the Cubs bump him from the big league roster. Maybe he’d clear and would be willing to do that, given how things have played out so far.

UPDATE: One of the less likely possibilities seems to be off the table:

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.



Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami