While the Dodgers might be slacking in several areas of prospect development, the catching department is certainly not one of them.
Will Smith and Austin Barnes have a stronghold on both the MLB catching spots, causing 21-year-old Keibert Ruiz to take a backseat at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Even though he’s had two tours of duty with the big league squad so far this season, Ruiz has settled in nicely at OKC, already collecting eight homers, 10 doubles, and 21 RBI through his first 29 games.
However, one name that’s often forgotten among the organization’s young catchers is 19-year-old Diego Cartaya. The Venezuela native is frequently overlooked by fans in the shadows of Ruiz. Nevertheless, the fact that Cartaya was selected to the organization’s 60-man player pool last year suggests that he could be a bit more advanced than many think.
So far in his first year of Low-A ball at Rancho Cucamonga, the righty hitting Cartaya is slashing an outstanding .324/.437/.690 with seven homers over 71 AB. Perhaps more impressively, he’s already collected 12 walks this year, just four shy of his entire total in 2019. All this translates to a fantastic 1.127 OPS for the season.
Those numbers also include a walkoff grand slam he smashed against Stockton in late May.
Although he’s currently ranked as the system’s sixth best prospect by MLB Pipeline, some pundits have boldly suggested that Cartaya could flat-out have the most prospect value in the entire organization.
When Cartaya signed for a $2.5 million bonus in July of 2018, he was just 16 years old and ranked second on MLB.com’s International Top 30 list.
Cartaya began his endeavors in the Dodgers system back in 2019 by competing 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 over just 36 games. Additionally, he threw out nine of 36 would-be base-stealers, which is quite impressive since he’s normally competing with prospects several years older than him.
According to MLB.com‘s Jesse Sanchez, Cartaya is an advanced hitter who displays superb contact skills and who has been praised for his pitch recognition and feel for the strike zone. He has also shown decent power to the gaps. On defense, Sanchez says Cartaya has a reputation as a great receiver with excellent 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 not long after welcoming Cartaya to the organization. “The body is a very mature body. Really talented kid from what I understand, so I know we’re excited.”
As stated by MLB Pipeline, the 6-foot-3, 219-pound Cartaya draws repeated comparisons to Kansas City’s Salvador Perez because of his large frame, defensive ability, and strong mechanical 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 opposing running game in check.
At this stage, it’s impossible to pinpoint an accurate major league arrival time for Cartaya, especially considering that he’s so far down on the depth chart. However, MLB pundits are guesstimating an approximate 2023 Los Angeles debut, so long as he’s still in the system and not blocked by both Smith and Ruiz.
In Sunday’s series finale against San Jose, Cartaya is catching and hitting fourth for the Quakes.