For serious Atlanta Braves fans, it should seem like the name Christian Bethancourt has been around for just about forever.
When you hear that he has been in the team’s organization for seven years now, you might be surprised. However, in all of those years in the minor leagues, he hasn’t really seemed to age that much. Why, you ask? Well, it’s probably because he’s just 22 years old. Now, you do the math. That’s right. We have been hearing this kid’s name since he was 16 years old, when the Braves signed him to the organization.
The comparison that the youngster has garnered of being a young Yadier Molina behind the plate is quite true. Watching him catch over the past few seasons, anyone can see that he’s ready for the major leagues defensively. Yet, there’s one part of Bethancourt’s game that isn’t up to major league standards: his bat.
At the end of the 2013 minor league season, the organization believed that the next Molina may be turning his bat around. 42 games into the 2014 season, he’s hitting only .247 with an OPS of .631. While those numbers are definitely better than some of the Braves players who are getting paid a lot of money (I’m looking at you, B.J. Upton), and his average is comparable to Evan Gattis‘ career average of .245, his OPS is more than .100 points lower.
Even more troubling is his lack of power. Over the past 10 years, the Braves have had catchers like Brian McCann and Gattis, who are pretty much a 20-25 home run per season guarantee.
Now, with the move from double-A to triple-A, it isn’t a surprise that his bat cooled off somewhat. The pitchers are better, and remember, he is only 22 years old. However, for those of you calling for him to come up to get some major league experience this early in the season, that is nonsense. If Fredi Gonzalez takes playing time away from Gattis, it could cost the team wins in a division that will most likely come down to a game or two.
Let’s just be patient and give him this year, and possibly another. Gattis will be turning 28 this season, and the team is in no rush in getting the young Bethancourt to the field.