Christian Bethancourt Scouting Report (2014)
Christian Bethancourt is a familiar face to Team ROTOscouting. From his first scouting report in 2010 to 2014, few players have been seen more often than the top-100 prospect. The combination of Evan Gattis‘ poor defense and B.J. Upton changing his last name to Mendoza has led to rumors of a pending call up. And with Bethancourt heating up in Triple-A (.325/.341/.416 in June), promoting the top prospect is a real possibility. Christian Bethancourt is the Braves’ catcher of the future, but is he catcher of the present too?
Listed at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Bethancourt has the ideal catcher’s frame. A plus athlete for the position, he and Jorge Alfaro [SCOUTING REPORT] are the “toolsiest” catching prospects scouted in six-plus years. his combination of agility and strength is outstanding and stands out on the field — especially in pre-game batting practice and defensive drills. From home runs which leave stadiums to flashing 80 arm strength, scouts drool over the tools and struggle to figure out why they fail to translate into in game production. Those concerns continue to dog Christian Bethancourt, although he’s earning believers by the day.
At the plate, Bethancourt morphs from BP Superman to slap hitter trying to punch balls the other way. It allows the right-handed hitter to profile with strong contact skills, but the result is weak contact and an inability to drive the baseball. In over 100 plate appearances, Christian Bethancourt has driven the baseball no more than a handful of times. Fortunately for him, one of those at bats was a ninth inning walk off against the Indianapolis Indians. 12 home runs in 2013 was an indication of his potential for power, but the catcher needs to better identify pitches to drive and swing with authority more often. With a 1-0 count, pushing balls to the right side hoping to find the 3/4 hole isn’t a sound strategy at the MLB level unless its Wade Boggs or Tony Gwynn.
With two strikes, Christian Bethancourt utilizes a deep crouch and shortens his swing. Is this a sound approach where Bethancourt sacrifices power for simpler swing mechanics? Or, does it require the right-handed hitter to maintain two separate swings when one is difficult enough? If the answer is the latter and Bethancourt’s natural hitting ability isn’t strong enough to facilitate an easy transition, it makes sense to focus on one swing and make less extreme adjustments.
Defensively, Bethancourt is considered a future gold glove candidate by the prospect community. This is misleading. In terms of athleticism and arm strength, the physical skills are present for the catcher to become a standard bearer at the position for the next decade. However, Christian Bethancourt’s skill behind the plate has yet to catch up. From sloppy passed balls to a long release which negatively effects his pop times, the top-100 prospect is still a work in progress at a time when Braves fans expect a polished product. He’ll continue to improve, but it’s too early to anoint him a defensive savior in Atlanta, but the potential is there.
On the bases, the catcher is a plus runner who has slowed from a 65 runner in 2010 to 55 runner in 2014. This is to be expected as Christian Bethancourt has filled out his frame and caught an additional 200-plus games. In time, the wear-and-tear of catching will cause him to slow even further. However, Bethancourt will remain a plus runner for many years when compared to positional counterparts.
Tool Present Future Projected Role First division starting catcher at the MLB level. Hitting Ability 20 40 Power 30 50 Speed 55 45 Fielding Ability 45 65 Arm 70 70
Owning Christian Bethancourt
If Bethancourt’s batting practice power ever translates to game action, the right-handed hitter is a 12-team starter in fantasy baseball leagues. Upon arrival in Atlanta, he’ll struggle to surpass the Mendoza Line, but will make adjustments in time. This presents an excellent buy low opportunity once Bethancourt falters. In keeper and dynasty fantasy baseball leagues, the future pay off will be worth it as Christian Bethancourt has the ability to be a power source behind the plate through his prime years.
26 Jun 2014 / Mike Newman /
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