We move along…well, we’re not really moving along because we’re staying behind the plate. For a large swath of the offseason, it was thought that Victor Caratini would move into the starter’s role as the Cubs cashed in on Willson Contereras. But that didn’t happen, or hasn’t happened yet, and Caratini will remain in a role we’re fairly sure he’s pretty good at. Let’s dive in.
Victor Caratini 2019
95 games, 279 PAs
.338 wOBA 108 wRC+
10.4 BB% 21.1 K%
4.3 Defensive Runs
Perhaps what allured so many galaxy-brained Cubs fans into thinking Caratini should be the starter over Contreras (and they’re out there) was that he made a lot of contact. While their walk-rates are pretty similar, and Victor certainly struck out enough, Caratini made contact above the league average both inside the zone and overall. This has been something that Contreras has struggled with for most of his career, and seeing as how Cubs fans decided to hang themselves with a rope made of contact-rate, Caratini was seen as something of a savior in that department.
The other thing with Caratini is he is the superior receiver, How much of a better framer, that’s up for debate, but he is better. So with a staff that will need some help, that does have some allure.
YES! YES! YES!: Really, not much has to change for Caratini to be one of the better #2 catchers in baseball. Those contact numbers are where you want them, and while he did receive the expected bump in his contact-type thanks to the flubber baseball, he does spray a decent amount of line-drive around the field and did in his first year in the bigs. The big jump for Victor from his rookie year to last was that he took far more walks, which raised his on-base. He’s probably never going to hit for much more than that .266 he put up last year, which is fine if he keeps his walks above 10%. There isn’t a lot of air in his numbers, so last year is just about what you’d expect. The 22% HR/FB rate seems high for Victor, so those 11 homers you saw last year are probably more like 6-7 in the years going forward.
You’re a B+ Player: Victor’s rather light contact results in more grounders than last year, which means he’s making a lot of right turns. Runners remember that he’s not Contreras and run all day on him, which is more on the pitchers though. Those framing numbers take a dive, and Contreras gets hurt so they have to rely on an underperforming Victor for more than they’d like. Caratini isn’t exactly a paragon of health either, which forces Josh Phegley into the lineup more than anyone can stomach (which means at all). Pitchers really hone in on his tendency to swing and miss at sliders low and away while batting left-handed. And then it all goes to pot, the Cubs have no Plan B after Contreras, and they’ll just have to pay Willy and keep him around. Say, that doesn’t sound so bad…
Endgame: This is a pretty big season for Caratini. He can prove that he could take over a starter’s role, which means the Cubs can either look to see if they can get a starter for 2021 and beyond for Contreras or even Caratini himself. He’s never going to be Buster Posey on either side of the plate, and his strong framing numbers might be rendered useless soon as the robo umps come into play. So he’s going to have to focus on being a productive contact hitter with the occasional pop.