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Atlanta Braves Top 30 Prospects: No. 8, Christian Bethancourt

8. Christian Bethancourt, C
B/T: R/R 2011 Age: 20 Ht: 6'2" Wt: 175
2010: (A-)
108 G, 420 PA, .251/.276/.331, 19 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 34 RBI, 11 SB, 14 BB, 62 K

Christian Bethancourt was signed by the Braves in 2008 out of Panama. He was signed knowing the Braves could get an advanced defensive catcher with time to develop the bat at a young age. So far we have seen the defensive side but little of the bat.

Bethancourt made his stateside debut in 2009, putting up a line of .277/.342/.446 between GCL and Danville. He hit well in the rookie leagues at 17 years old, recording wOBAs of .377 and .363 in the small sample sizes. Also, his arm and defensive skills were on full display. This vaulted his prospect status to top 10 very quickly.

However, Bethancourt hit a snag at A- Rome in 2010, putting up a .279 wOBA with only 14 walks in 420 plate appearances. A combination of being his first full season at 18 years old and better competition caused him to hit a serious wall. He didn't show much as far as identifying pitches or having a decent approach in the box. However, his defense remained solid.

Bethancourt will never be a really strong hitter, though he's certainly not as bad as he showed last season. His approach and mechanics are off, and his swing is long, but age is on his side. It's nothing to be overly concerned with at this point. His defense rates as one of the best behind the plate in the entire minors, especially his arm, which could be a legit top five in the majors now. His big frame means a strong lower body, and he's not so overly big that it will hurt him down the road. He's very physical and strong for such a young age.

In the box, Bethancourt projects to have good power and eventually a decent idea of the zone. Behind the plate, he projects to win awards at the big league level. The bat is his only concern, and another trip to Rome will hopefully put him on the right track.

Three Things to Look For in 2011: 1) Eye & Discipline 2) Approach 3) Power
Destination in 2011: All at A-
ETA: 2015
Ceiling: All-Star catcher, top five defense, respectable offense
My Prediction: Starts in majors mainly for defense

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.