March 5, 2012; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt (68) in the game against the Houston Astros at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Open Court For Bethancourt

March 5, 2012; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt (68) in the game against the Houston Astros at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

It would be insane, but interesting if player lineups were based on a courtroom setting, with fans deciding the fate of any particular player.  I cringe to imagine that, while finding it fun at the same time.

If I were a judge and I had the case before me of whether to start Evan Gattis or Christian Bethancourt as an every day catcher in 2014, and all you visitors to Tomahawk Take were a jury of Evan Gattis and Christian Bethancourt’s peers, what verdict would you render if the season were to start tomorrow?

Bear in mind that this scenario is in no way intended to be a slight on Gerald Laird.  The veteran, at this point, is more likely to be the every day catcher than anyone, at least in my mind, but we did get some hint in Fredi Gonzalez‘ last interview on 680 The Fan, that the Braves might be leaning toward Gattis as their prime candidate.  At the very least, Fredi indicated they plan to give him more starts at catcher.

However it turns out, I argued the case for Bethancourt a while ago, and my mind has not changed.  Christian’s numbers haven’t been great in the Dominican Winter League, but Bethancourt should be looked at for more than simple numbers alone.   It’s an older article, but still relevant today… Jesse Sanchez pointed out in an article a a couple years ago on MLB.com, that Christian Bethancourt isn’t defined by numbers alone.  The same applies in 2013, and probably more so.

Bethancourt’s talent, especially his defensive abilities as a catcher, are a coach’s dream, but I’m also amazed at his maturity.  In Sanchez’ article, he quotes some of Bethancourt’s thoughts in 2011, and you can see a level of maturity in Christian that was rare then in a young player, and still so today….

Let me tell you something, when you sign a contract to become a professional baseball player, you are automatically a professional, but there are still a lot of things you have to learn to act like a professional. I’m learning that here. There are some Double-A guys, some Triple-A guys and some that have played in the Major Leagues. It’s been a great experience for a person like me who was at Class A.

I’m learning about the consistency of the game and what it takes to do it day to day.  Some days are up and some days are down, but I’m learning about the responsibility that comes with this job, the focus that it takes. Maybe these are not the things people notice in the stands, but they are really important.

Bethancourt sounds pretty wise beyond his years, and those quotes were from awhile back.  That wisdom, coupled together with his defensive abilities,  and raw, athletic talent, certainly recommend him in my mind to be given a good chance at starting as catcher in an Atlanta Braves’ uniform, sooner than later.

Despite some lower numbers in the DWL, let’s not forget the kind of numbers that Bethancourt put up this past season.  At Double-A Mississippi, Christian hit on a line of .277/.305/.436/.741, and also put up 12 homers (7 more than in any previous minor league season), while getting 99 hits including 21 doubles and 45 RBIs.  Scouts always wanted to see a touch more power out of Bethancourt, and he’s begun to do that very thing.

If Bethancourt gets an invite to spring, as he probably will given the Braves’ current needs at catcher, and puts up a good showing, could we see him skip Triple-A altogether and start soon after the 2014 season begins?  If you were in court having to make such a verdict, would you pick him or Evan Gattis?  Before you render your verdict, remember that with Gattis, no one really expected him to show so well and get the nod last spring either!  Additionally, Gattis has had less than a stellar showing as a catcher when he has been given the opportunity.  Sure, people are enamored with his power and his story, but is that enough?

If a jury of their peers came back mostly picking Gattis, I’m sorry – as judge in my mock court, I’d have to overrule that verdict and go with Bethancourt.  I’d rather have a superior defensive catcher any day, and one that has shown that while he may not have the same power as Gattis, is still growing and can produce.  Most teams hope for a catcher that can really do the job behind the plate.  Bethancourt fits that bill.

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