Victor Caratini headed to majors

About 12 hours after catcher Miguel Montero made comments about pitcher Jake Arrieta and his slow delivery to home, the Cubs have parted ways with the NLCS hero.

After the Nationals stole seven bases on Tuesday night in a 6-1 win, the Cubs catcher criticized Arrieta and sparked a firestorm that resulted in Anthony Rizzo taking to ESPN 1000 in Chicago and said Montero was being “unprofessional and selfish.” Shortly after those comments, news broke that the Cubs had DFA’d Montero and called up Victor Caratini from Iowa.

Acquired from the Braves at the 2014 trade deadline for Emilio Bonifacio and LHP James Russell, Caratini was the Atlanta’s second-round pick in 2013 and spent his first pro season playing third base. Caratini made the move to behind the plate during the off-season and was traded to the Cubs that summer. 

After attending the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy, Caratini was headed to Southern University but was ruled ineligible and without a college. He was able to enroll at Miami Dade Junior College, and while playing time behind the plate was tough to come by, was able to showcase his bat and his arm at third base. He played 45 games, hitting .377/.467/.549 with 6 HR, 66 RBI, 10 SB, and 44 runs.

The Braves used their second-round pick to draft Caratini (#65 overall) and sent him to Danville in the Appalachian Rookie League. Caratini not only lived up to his second-round billing, (.290/.415/.430 in 58 games) he instantly became one of the top prospects in the Braves organization. While he only had one homer, he did smack 23 doubles.

Caratini spent first pro season at third, and made the transition to catcher before the start of ’14. Starting the first two games at third for the Rome Braves in the Low A South Atlantic League, Caratini made his pro catching debut April 5 at Hagerstown, slugging a two-run homer in the win. He only made eight more starts at third, the last April 30, and spent the rest of his time behind the dish. In 87 games at Rome, Caratini displayed his extra base power with five homers, four triples and 18 doubles. With the ability to show he could catch and an OPS over .750, Caratini was named to the SAL All-Star game and was shooting up the Braves prospect list when the Cubs came calling.

After the deal, the Cubs sent their new catcher to Kane County, where he only played in 14 games before being shutdown for the season. During his one month stay, Caratini drew compliments from Kane County Manager Mark Johnson, who said Caratini moves well behind the plate, has a high ceiling, and despite his age, won’t take much time to develop. He caught nine games and spent five at DH, going 14-for-53  with four doubles and 13 RBI.

Jed Hoyer told reporters after the trade Caratini was someone they liked, not only leading up to the 2013 draft but after he turned pro. Hoyer cited Caratini’s ability to switch hit, play third and catch, and knowledge of the strike zone as qualities the Cubs valued.

In his first full season with the Cubs, Caratini was sent to Myrtle Beach and played in 112 games, 86 behind the plate, slashing .257/.342/.372 with four homers and 31 doubles. He spent the entire season in the Carolina League and while his offensive numbers took a dip, continued to hone his skills behind the dish, throwing out 30 of 105 base runners. His confidence also took a major boost during the playoffs as Caratini was named the MVP of the Mills Cup, hitting .474/.542/684 with seven RBI and four doubles in six games as the Pelicans won the Carolina League title.

Caratini carried the MVP boost into the Southern League in 2016, earning mid-season and post-season all-star honors, slashing .291/.375/.405 with six homers, 25 doubles and 54 RBI. Caratini shot up the Cubs prospect rankings and when Willson Contreras graduated to the big leagues, was considered the Cubs top catching prospect. Caratini threw out 26 percent of base runners in Tennessee. He played in the Arizona Fall league (.226/.338/.274, 19 G) and was added to the Cubs 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft.

The 23-year-old is having his best offensive season of his career, slashing .343/.384/.539 with a career-best eight homers, 20 RBI and a team-high 54 RBI in 68 games. Behind the plate, the backstop has thrown out 12 of 43 and was selected as the starting catcher for the PCL in the AAA All-Star game. 

 

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