Now that Spring Training is winding to a close, it’s time for clubs to make final decisions on who will make their 25-man rosters for Opening Day on March 29th. One of the Cubs’ last remaining open slots was for the 2nd catcher to back up Willson Contreras. The finalists for the job were Chris Gimenez, the veteran signed over the winter discussed in a prior post, and minor-leaguer Victor Caratini, who made some big-league appearances for the Cubs in 2017 when filling in for Contreras while he was on the DL and as a late-season call-up.
As discussed by the Cubs’ Spring Training radio broadcasters (TV guys during regular season) during a recent game, the conventional wisdom for making this type of decision between a young prospect and a veteran would be to send the younger Caratini to AAA Iowa for further seasoning and regular at-bats and to keep the veteran Gimenez on the big-league club to back up the starter. However, it was announced Saturday that Caratini has won the job and Gimenez will be sent to Iowa. He will be able to request a release from the Cubs if he is not promoted to the big-league team by June 1. This effectively means Caratini has a two-month probationary period to prove himself in the bigs.
I understand the Cubs may have preferred Caratini over Gimenez because he is a younger, more versatile player (can play 1B, is a switch-hitter) and has more upside offensively (.254 BA with the Cubs in 31 games; .342 BA, 10 HR, 61 RBIs in 291 PA with AAA Iowa last year versus career average .218/.309/.345 slash line for Gimenez). It will be interesting to see how the Cubs use Caratini to ensure he gets at-bats and continues to develop as a player. It seems manager Joe Maddon is of the opinion he will develop more at the big-league level than in the minors. I am not sure Caratini would be an ideal late-game defensive substitution at catcher since he is relatively inexperienced, but we will likely see him pinch-hitting or replacing the corner infielders during blowout games as well as starting in place of Contreras on days Maddon likes to rest the regular starting position players.
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