After a solid 2011 stint in A-ball, along with a great Arizona Fall League, the Braves decided to push Christian Bethancourt ahead aggressively, a decision that has not worked out so well so far. After posting a .303/.320/.430 line in Rome, Bethancourt struggled to a .271/.277/.325 line in Lynchburg the second half of last season. Normally, such a performance would suggest that he would begin this year in Lynchburg. However, his .306/.324/.556 performance in the AFL got the Braves a little too eager, sending the 20-year-old to Mississippi this year.
His average has remained a manageable .248, but his lack of secondary offensive skills let that average severely overstate his value with the bat. Bethancourt has never been patient, walking 30 times in over 1000 plate appearances since the beginning of the 2010 season. His power has fluctuated greatly throughout minor league stints. On the high end, he hit 5 HR in 74 PA in Arizona last fall, just after his .054 ISO in Lynchburg. This year represents a new low, with his two doubles as the only extra base hits, “good” for an .015 ISO. There is no indication of an injury, which makes the drop even more puzzling. A .248/.279/.263 slashline makes him look more like Humberto Quintero than Yadier Molina.
Fortunately, he has not let his lack of success hitting boil over into his defense. Bethancourt has thrown out 38% of baserunners, while harnessing his throws more, only committing three errors so far this year, after 19 last year. This is the reason he will find his way to the majors, but we would much rather see him as a starter than a career back-up.
The Braves also made a similar push, and mistake, with Joey Terdoslavich this year. After a great 2011 season in Lynchburg and Arizona Fall League, they had the 23-year-old skip AA and started him in Gwinnett this year. After posting a .180/.252/.263 line the first two months, Terdoslavich was demoted to Mississippi. His advanced age made his move a bit more understandable than Bethancourt’s, but neither one ended up as the right call. I don’t know if Bethancourt will ever have the bat to be a significant contributor at the major league level, but the organization needs to be patient in his development to let him have that chance.