If you were fortunate enough to catch the Dodgers‘ series opener against the Rockies on Monday, not only did you see the impressive debut of infield prospect Gavin Lux, but you also witnessed a starting lineup that featured an impressive seven homegrown products from the Los Angeles farm.
While this seems impressive in itself, what’s even more amazing is the level of prospect talent that the organization often likes to refer as the “second and third waves.”
One of the hot topics of discussion that kept its momentum throughout most of the 2019 season was the depth the Dodgers have in the catching department. With the emergence of Will Smith, team management was forced to relegate 29-year-old Austin Barnes to Triple-A, where he heads a depth chart that features some of the best backstop prospects in baseball.
Beyond Barnes and Smith are Connor Wong and the highly-touted Keibert Ruiz; however, if you continue down the totem pole, you’ll come across names like Stevie Berman, Hunter Feduccia, Tre Todd and Gersel Pitre.
And, if you proceed down the depth chart even further, you’ll eventually come across the name Diego Cartaya—a 17-year-old catcher from Venezuela who some pundits consider one of the best prospects in the Los Angeles system.
When he signed for a $2.5 million bonus in July of 2018, Cartaya was 16 years of age and ranked second on MLB.com’s International Top 30 list.
He began his endeavors this year in the Dominican Summer League, but he arrived on United States soil just in time to provide a decent sample size in the 2019 Arizona Rookie League. There, he slashed .296/.353/.437 with three homers and 10 doubles in just 36 games. Additionally, he threw out nine of 36 would-be base-stealers, which isn’t too shabby since he’s competing with prospects several years older than him.
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 very high baseball IQ.
Even big league skipper Dave Roberts had a tingle of excitement at the time of the signing.
“Didn’t see him hit or anything, but from what I understand from our scouts, very excited about him,” Roberts said late last summer. 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, so long as he’s still in the system and players like Smith and Ruiz aren’t blocking him.