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

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.

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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.

29 thoughts on “Dodgers Prospect Watch: Could 2022 See the MLB Debut of Diego Cartaya?

  1. I believe Cartaya will not make his debut this season. 2 years away at least. But I also think Carson Taylor is the more polished of the two this year. Taaylor will most likely be at AA Tulsa to starts with Cartaya at high A. There are an awful lot of free agent catchers out there with MLB experience. I think LA signs at least one of those guys as an emergency backstop in case Barnes or Smith go down.

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      1. Both are A League catchers. Taylor’s older,and may get a look, but I believe Cartaya is the better prospect. I see no need for either of them in ‘22. My pick for a possible difference maker is Bobby Miller.

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  2. I don’t see them as “two quality backstops.” In Smith we have a star catcher, but Barnes is terrible on offense. Cartaya would be a major improvement.

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  3. Barnes had plenty of times in the minors where he hit over .300 so although we all assume that Cartaya will have a far better career than Austin, we won’t know for sure until he gets here. Sometimes the jump from high minors to MLB doesn’t go as expected. I think part of Barnes’ problem is that he simply isn’t getting enough at bats, but that certainly won’t change while we have Smith. When it’s time for Barnes to leave after this year, he may well be happy to go to a rebuilding team that wants him to handle their young pitchers and be the first string backstop.

    Although I think Miller will probably have a better career than Pepiot, I expect great things from both of them. If we’re looking for a difference maker for 2022 I think I’m going to go with Pepiot. I think he’ll be ready first and I’m hoping that his fairly dismal showing at AAA at the end of 2021 was mostly due to his having thrown a lot more innings last year than he ever had before (in either the minors or in college).

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    1. We have a terrific starting catcher that’s 27 years old. Who backs him up could be any one of several journeyman catchers, including Barnes. Cartaya is 20 and will be playing every day somewhere in our system for a couple more years.

      Pepiot is a year older and expected to be ready ahead of Miller. That’s why I picked Miller. He’s got serious swing and miss stuff and I got a feeling he could push his way onto the roster. If he does, I look like a genius. I like it when that happens. If he doesn’t, well, nobody really expected him to so, no big deal.

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      1. I appreciate your strategy Scoop but if Miller contributes next year, it’s not enough of a longshot for me to give you any major credit.

        Now, if you want to pick Peter Heubeck (remember him?), that’s a whole other story.

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      2. Peter Huebeck. Game Show host?

        As blame flies in all directions, getting credit for anything is more difficult to come by.

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  4. When we needed a bat last season snd Ruiz seemed a reasonable option they left him in the minors to get more playing time. If they didn’t bring him up I’m not dure they would bring Cartaya up.

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  5. If either of our two young catchers make it to AAA this year, that would be a major accomplishment. Just not enough time in pro ball yet. Both appear to know how to hit and Taylor plays 3 positions. Telis doesn’t appear to bring much to the table so he’s a gap filler at AAA. It appears he lacks offense and ability to throw out runners.

    Pepiot is rated ahead of Miller, so we probably see him and his wipe out change-up first. The team likes to baby it’s young arms so we get to be patient…although we probably get a preview this season. Their time in MLB will probably be limited this year so as not to start the arbitration clock.

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    1. Not sure they baby their young arms at least in the minors. It’s because they don’t have the talent to pitch in the majors. If they are talented they are there at a early age and then babied ( ie may, julio). Pepiot is nearing 25 so his clock it ticking. Can’t think of a rookie 25 year old that had real sucess in the majors.
      As far as catchers, it’s a really tough position to learn and still hit. Let’s give them time to develope. Don’t think any of the highly rated catchers in the last 10 years have had much sucess in the najors. Good ones seem to come out of nowhere or develope late (ie smith). If they were anywhere near ready I think they’d be playing g 2 positions. Can’t have two catchers. Give them a couple of years.

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      1. “Can’t think of a rookie 25 year old that had real sucess in the majors.”
        There’s a fella on the Mets, name of deGrom, who pitched his rookie year at the age of 26. Now granted, you said 25 and I’m giving you an example of a 26 year old so you can call me on it if you want to. 🙂

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      2. Ok jeff. Darn you. I couldn’t think of anyone, but of course there are always exceptions. I actually didn’t know he was that old. Way to go bud. Anyone else. ??

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      3. Hoyt Wilhelm, Dazzy Vance, Sal Maglie – but you’re right they’re the exceptions to the rule, and I couldn’t come up with any more current players off the top of my head.

        This would be an interesting topic for our blog historian, Mr. Bear.

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  6. Made it home safe and sound. Well safe anyway…..Train was 1 hour 10 minutes late getting in and I had way too much mail to open.

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    1. Train ride. You are the only person I know who rides the train. Tell me about it. How many miles, how many dollars how long did it take? Sleeper car? Good meals?

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      1. It cost 222 round trip from Trinidad to LA and back. This time I rode coach, which I do not recommend. If you do travel by train do what my sis and I did back in May. Get a sleeper unit. Meals are included, and there is a shower. You do not have to wear your mask while in it. Prices vary. The smaller compartments are ok, but a wee bit cramped. The meals in the dining car were pretty good. The stuff from the snack bar in the observation car, not that great. The coffee was decent. Also you get pretty much all the water you might need. Cleanliness in the bathrooms leave a little bit to be desired, but usually they are ok. But as for a kick back and relax trip, they are great. Sleepers are usually on the lower level which reduces the amount of swaying you might feel as the train takes corners and such. But anytime you are going to travel overnight, I suggest the sleeper. Seats in coach are pretty hard and not really comfortable although they do recline a lot. My butt is still sore! LOL.

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      2. Trinidad to LA is supposed to be 23 1/2 hours. Coming out the train was 4 hours behind schedule due to the high winds and a power line that dropped across the tracks. Coming back it was not as bad, only 1 hour and 10 minutes late. On a siding waiting for a long freight train to pass, and the crew exchange in Kingman was longer than it was supposed to be. Up the coast back in May was 37 hours LA to Portland.

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  7. Good Morning everyone and Happy New Year to you. It has to be better than 2021, but it is starting off on the wrong foot. MLB and the MLBPA do not have any meetings planned until later in the month if at all. MLB is compiling a new proposal, which I am pretty sure the players will reject. About all we have to look forward to is the Hall of Fame announcement in a few days. Doubt any of the PED boys make it on their last try, Bonds, Clemens, Schilling is most likely going to just miss again. Ortiz, who in the early returns was posting well, now looks pretty iffy. So it seems maybe the 6 players elected by the Veterans will be the only ones going in. Fine with me, Gil was kept out way too long. So was Kaat. I have an eye appointment today, but a friend is driving me to the Springs since they will most likely dilate my eyes. Plus the windshield on my truck got sandblasted in the windstorm the day I left and I will most likely need a new one.

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  8. Yes Jeff Wilhelm was amazing. I’m too young to remember the others, but I’m Positive they all broke in Long before they turned 25. I was talking about players who broke in after age 25 not broke out after age 25. In any event I rest my case. If you don’t break in before age 25 you have the potential to be a career minor leaguer. Lol. And nobody babies a 24 year old unless there is or was a injury problem. I really have to ask myself why pepoit is still in the minors with no cup of tea.

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    1. OK, I need your definition of “broke in”. Does that mean pitched a good amount of innings or any innings at all?
      Willhelm threw his first major league pitch at the age of 29.
      Maglie threw his first MLB pitch at the age of 28 and didn’t throw another one until he was 33.
      Phil Niekro threw 15 innings at 25, spent a couple of years as a reliever and then become a starter at age 28.

      As we discussed before, your premise is basically valid but there are exceptions and sometimes those exceptions turn out to be excellent pitchers. I’ll keep looking and see if I can come up with any current day pitchers who qualify for our little exercise here. And we also need to remember that there was basically no minor league 2020 season so maybe we need to move the number 25 to 26 for recent guys.

      I’m liking this back and forth we’re having. Keeps the brain cells active.

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  9. Yes this is fun. My premise is if you are 25 and never been in the bigs, your chance of being a top of rotation pitcher is very slim although I agree some have sucess in their late 20’s. You’ve already found 3/4 in the last 100 years. But the really sucessful pitchers are almost always in the majors long before they are 25. Often struggling struggling early but learning how to pitch. ( ie kersh ). That’s why I go crazy when someone calls a 24 year old in double a “prospect”

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