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Dodgers Prospect Watch: Could 2022 See the MLB Debut of Diego Cartaya?

(MLB.com photo)

While the MLB roster freeze doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, many of us continue to speculate how the Dodgers might fill out their roster once the new CBA is in place.

One position we haven’t talked about much this winter is catcher. Obviously, the team has two quality backstops on its current 40-man roster in Will Smith and Austin Barnes, who each have a distinct skillset they bring to the table. However, beyond these two players, there are some interesting choices as to whom might get the call should a need arise.

Typically, Los Angeles will call on an older journeyman to both groom the young catchers while also providing an emergency option at the big-league level. Last year, veteran Tim Federowicz hung out at Oklahoma City to fill this role, and in years prior, we saw Rocky Gale handle these duties.

Not long before Christmas, the Dodgers signed Tomas Telis to a minor league deal (minor league transactions are not frozen because of the CBA), and it seems as if the 30-year-old Venezuelan could take over as one of the tops dogs at Triple-A Oklahoma City next year.

Telis has been fluctuating between the majors and minors for the past five seasons, having seen big league action for both the Rangers and Marlins. In 2021, the 5-foot-8, 220-pound switch hitter slashed .207/.258/.241 with one extra base hit over 31 MLB plate appearances. He’s a career .230/.267/.298 hitter with 267 PA and has thrown out just three of 29 base-stealers at the MLB level.

Another option could be 20-year-old Diego Cartaya, a catcher who it feels like we’ve been talking about for many years now, similar to the way Keibert Ruiz was once hyped.

In 2021, the 6-foot-3 righty-hitting Cartaya slashed .298/.409/.614 with 10 homers and 31 stolen bases over 137 plate appearances in 137 games for Low-A ancho Cucamonga. Low-A ball is obviously a far cry from the big-league level, but if Cartaya continues to produce successfully, he could begin to climb through the ranks swiftly. Ruiz made his MLB debut not long after his 22nd birthday in August 2020.

At the moment, MLB Pipeline ranks Cartaya as the highest-rated prospect in the Dodgers’ system and the 28th-best prospect in all of baseball.

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 was quite impressive considering he was competing against players well outside of his age group.

According to MLB.com‘s Jesse Sanchez, Cartaya is an advanced hitter who displays superb contact skills and 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.

As stated by MLB Pipeline, Cartaya draws repeated comparisons to Kansas City’s Salvador Perez because of his large frame, defensive ability, and strong mechanical makeup. Cartaya 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.

Obviously, the logical outlook would be for the team to take its time with Cartaya and not push the MLB envelope since he’s still only 20. However, aside from Carson Taylor, there doesn’t seem to be too many blue-chip catchers on the farm who might be on the fast track.

When considering Cartay’s advanced skillset and level of maturity, there might be a chance he sees MLB action sooner than many think.

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