Christian Bethancourt was supposed to be the future behind the plate for the Atlanta Braves. But at present he kinda stinks. As such, the Braves just optioned him to Triple-A.
The at-one-time highly thought-of catcher hasn’t hit at all, posting a line of .208/.231/.297. Which would even be difficult to carry if he was a modern day Johnny Bench, defensively speaking. Which he has decidedly not been. Yesterday he allowed a run to score on a passed ball. His fifth passed ball in 27 games this year. He had six in 31 games last year. Former Braves catcher Evan Gattis had five passed balls in 93 games last season, and he’s considered to be a disaster defensively. A.J. Pierzynski, meanwhile, has two in 36 games.
Add in the fact that there is no suggestion that Bethancourt is good at handling pitchers or framing — he often looks crossed-up — and all you’re left with at the moment is a guy with a great arm behind the dish — he does throw out baserunners at a better-than-average pace — and a lot of unfulfilled promise. He needs some seasoning and he needs it on a stage smaller than the big leagues.
Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt took 208 plate appearances before hitting his first home run in the major leagues, and it was a big one. Leading off the bottom of the ninth inning against Pirates reliever Vance Worley with the game tied at 4-4, Bethancourt drove a first pitch breaking ball to the opposite field, just sneaking over the fence in the right field corner for a walk-off solo home run.
Starter Julio Teheran pitched well, but faltered late which allowed the Pirates to score twice to tie the game at 4-4 in the eighth inning. Closer Jason Grilli got the win after pitching a scoreless top half of the ninth inning. The win halts a three-game losing streak for the Braves.
Along with the one home run, Bethancourt has knocked in nine runs while batting .205/.231/.307.
Looking to add some organizational catching depth, the Braves have signed Wil Nieves to a minor-league contract.
Nieves elected to become a free agent last week after being dropped from the 40-man roster by the Padres, who replaced the 37-year-old with prospect Austin Hedges.
Nieves has never been more than a backup-caliber catcher and even that might be a stretch at this point. He’s a career .241 hitter with a .597 OPS in 427 games spent with seven different teams.
Atlanta has A.J. Pierzynski and Christian Bethancourt splitting time behind the plate, so Nieves would probably need an injury to reach the majors again.