With the signing of A.J. Pierzynski as a 3rd catcher, the Braves appear to be serious about moving Evan Gattis to left field, thus surrendering the offensive competitive advantage they have enjoyed at catcher for the past 20 years. Since 1994, apart from 2 years of Johnny Estrada, the Braves have started sluggers Javy Lopez, Brian McCann, and Gattis at the position, and even Estrada was an All-Star for the Braves in 2004, batting .314.
This may be good news for Christian Bethancourt, but no one has any illusions about any offensive advantage coming from him this year. Eyeballing his minor league stats, the 2014 .248/.274 batting average/on base percentage Bethancourt put up in 113 at bats in Atlanta looks to be a good starting point for projecting his 2015. I can see him hitting as many as 5 home runs if he gets 300 at bats.
Bethancourt is regarded as a prospect due to his defensive reputation, and he threw out 38% of potential base stealers in his minor league career. However, in his last two minor league seasons he had 13 and 10 passed balls respectively in 85 and 80 games, and had 6 more in 39 games in Atlanta. (Is that a lot? That seems like a lot.)
On the plus side, Bethancourt will not be 24 until September, and has been young for his league at every level. He has started to develop some semblance of power the last two minor league seasons, hitting 12 and 8 homers in 388 and 365 at bats.
Bethancourt may grow up to be Welington Castillo someday, but that day won’t come in 2015. It seems that the Braves have decided that their new competitive advantage is going to be 8th place hitters — in 2015, they are on pace to start 4 of them.
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