After having one of the best farm systems in MLB for years, the Atlanta Braves no longer have many prospects who are ready to be called up to the big leagues. The names that gave the Braves’ farm system such a high ranking — Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Jason Heyward and Julio Teheran — are long past being prospects. That said, Christian Bethancourt is one player the Braves can call up who would have an immediate impact.
Braves catchers have had a difficult time defensively this year. Evan Gattis‘ five errors puts him in a tie for most errors by a catcher in the NL. In the first two games of the Braves’ recent series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Gattis had difficulty blocking pitches in the dirt, and made a critical throwing error as well. Despite his shortcomings defensively, Gattis a consistent producer offensively and actually frames pitches well according to new metrics.
It’s the Braves’ backup catchers who are the real issue. Gerald Laird was brought in before the 2013 season and was expected to be an above-average defensive catcher. While he throws out a higher percentage of would-be base stealers than Gattis, his defense has been unimpressive. His passed ball in the series finale against the Cardinals led to three runs, and his mistake would’ve cost the Braves the game if not for a poor outing from Trevor Rosenthal.
Ryan Doumit is another option to fill in behind the plate, but Doumit is even worse defensively. He is 0-for-7 in throwing out baserunners this season and has only thrown out 24 percent of would-be base stealers throughout his career. Both Doumit and Laird have struggled offensively this year, with Doumit hitting .217 and Laird hitting just .158. On top of that, both have ranked among the worst in the league in pitch framing.
The organization would have nothing to lose by calling up Bethancourt. He’s never hit higher than .289 in the minors and is only hitting .243 this year, but the Braves’ backup catchers aren’t hitting either. The Braves can finally see what they have in one of their top prospects, and if the scouting reports hold true, he could be the best defensive backstop the team has had in some time.
Even though most of the blame for the Braves’ recent slide has been blamed on poor run production, improving run prevention could be just as impactful. Calling up Bethancourt would do just that.