Continuing in our series of looking at Cubs player minor league careers, we look at Victor Caratini, a non-hearalded prospect who found his way onto the Cubs roster. He was never a top 100 prospect, yet made it and contributed at the show.
Victor Caratini was drafted by the Atlanta Braves, as a 19 year old second rounder in 2013. he was traded to the Cubs in 2014.He spent a full season at Myrtle Beach A+, then another full season at Tennessee AA. In 2017, he spent most of the year at AAA Iowa, before getting a cup of coffee at the big league level. He spent some more time at AAA in 2018, but then came back up to the Cubs for good.
As we go through the numbers, notice how Caratini basically got better with each promotion. His A ball OPS was about .730. Then that jumped to .780 at AA, and .920 at AAA. With most of the players I've researched, it's typically somewhat opposite. Players demolish the lower level pitching, then get a bit worse as they get promoted. It makes sense, because they are facing better competition. Vic is the first player I've analyzed who's gotten better with age.
Caratini's always had on base capabilities. Even as he's struggled in the big leagues, he's maintained a decent 8.2% walk rate for his career. That was 10.8% in the minors. His MLB K rate is 21.2%, was 16.6% in the minors. He has always been capable of tracking pitches and having a good at bat. That level of skill gives hima solid talent floor, knowing that he can recognize pitches and the strike zone.
The issue for Caratini is power. Look over his annual SLG numbers. It was close to the .400 level throughout his minor league career, then exploded to a .558 during his time in Iowa in 2017. This was a key factor in his bettered offensive numbers and led directly to his MLB debut. When he came up for the cup of coffee, that plummeted to .356. Obviously he still had stuff to work on. As he split time between AAA and Chicago in 2018, those SLG numbers were low again, at .304 in Chicago.
In 2019, he began to put it together, SLG at .447. With a decent average and good OBP, this was good enough for a backup catcher. But then as he's struggled in 2020, the SLG has once again dropped to just .295 presently. These raw numbers indicate a lack of power, which would lead me to assume low exit velocity and poor launch angle. Let's see if I'm right:
So exit velocity is right at MLB average. Launch angle is a far different story. As this data isn't available for minor league numbers, it's hard to know is that magical season at AAA was infused by some kind of fluke factor. Perhaps Caratini just needs to make an adjustment, drive the ball, and become a better MLB hitter. At least that's my hope.
Since Caratini never became a big time prospect, it's hard to know what the MLB future holds exactly. He obviously has potential, but it all depends on his quality of contact. I'd like to think that the Cubs know this and are working on him, but he's taken a big step back in 2020. When watching him in the future, keep a close eye on his power, because that will decide his future.