One would need to go back nearly a decade to realize the last time the Dodgers had significant strength and depth at the catching position. Russell Martin was coming off back-to-back All-Star campaigns in 2007 and 2008, while A.J. Ellis was emerging as one of the most reliable backup catchers in the bigs. Plus, there was a Top 5 prospect named Carlos Santana who was revered by every rival GM across the league.
In spite of that, Los Angeles boss Ned Colletti traded away Santana to the Indians before the 2008 non-waiver deadline in what was one of the most scrutinized deals in recent Dodgers’ history. The Dodgers got Casey Blake—a solid leader and a very reliable glove at the hot corner—and Cleveland received a top-notch star who would contribute for many years down the road. Seemingly, both sides were happy with the trade, although the Dodgers’ lost a huge chunk of their organizational depth behind the plate.
Two years later, in a surprising move, Colletti non-tendered Martin in the winter of 2010. Martin, who was 28 at the time and felt he still was among the game’s best, signed a two-year pact with the Yankees, leaving Los Angeles razor-thin in the catching department. Colletti would later use several serviceable veterans, including Rod Barajas and Brad Ausmus, to provide support for Ellis, who finally emerged as the club’s primary catcher after an eternity in the minors.
Today, although the organization is without a bonafide backstop in the majors, its farm system is loaded with talent, especially at catcher. The Dodgers may conceivably be the deepest club in baseball with prospects at the backstop position, and international signings are a huge reason why. Keibert Ruiz was signed out of Venezuela on his 16th birthday in 2014 and has elevated to become one of the top young catchers in the minors. And, if you weren’t following along last summer, Los Angeles signed another Venezuelan backstop, Diego Cartaya, to a $2.5 million bonus in July.
At the time of his signing, Cartaya was 16 years of age and ranked second on MLB.com’s International Top 30 list. Even though he’s yet to play a single inning on United States soil, scouts are so impressed with Cartaya that he has elevated to an eleventh-place ranking on MLB Pipeline‘s list of Dodgers prospects.
Most likely, the 17-year-old, right-handed hitter will be heading stateside to compete immediately after his 18th birthday in September of 2019.
According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, Cartaya is an advanced hitter who displays plus contact skills and who has been praised for his pitch recognition and feel for the strike zone. He has shown some power to the gaps. On defense, Sanchez says Cartaya has a reputation as a great receiver with very good hands. He handles pitchers well and has a high baseball IQ.
Even big league skipper Dave Roberts had a tingle of excitement at the time of the signing.
“Didn’t see any video yet,” Roberts said in July. “Didn’t see him hit or anything, but from what I understand from our scouts, very excited about him. The body is a very mature body. Really talented kid from what I understand, and so I know we’re excited.”
As stated by MLB Pipeline, the 6-foot-2, 200 lb. Cartaya draws repeated comparisons to Kansas City’s Salvador Perez because of his large frame, defensive ability and strong makeup. He moves well for a tall guy behind the plate and demonstrates advanced receiving skills for his age. He has the arm strength and accuracy to keep the running game in check.
At this stage, it’s impossible to pinpoint an accurate major league arrival time for the youngster, but pundits are guesstimating a ballpark of 2023. In the meantime, Los Angeles continues to corner the market on catching prospects, as Ruiz, Cartaya, Will Smith and Connor Wong all rank in the organization’s list of Top 16 overall prospects.
On another note, November 25 marks exactly three years since the creation of this website. All of us here at Think Blue Planning Committee would like to thank all the dedicated readers who have stuck by us during this time, as well as all the newcomers who continue stumble across our work. Bigger and better things are abound in 2019!