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Is Christian Bethancourt an option at catcher?

Christian Bethancourt turned in a career year at catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers Triple-A affiliate in 2018. Why isn’t he getting any consideration for a job with the Major League team?</h2<

It was a surprise to see Christian Bethancourt never get called up last year. He happened to have his best season in his professional career last year, and he’s only 27 years old. Manny Pina didn’t make a Major League roster until his age-31 season, and Bethancourt already has 161 games in the Majors under his belt. Why didn’t the Milwaukee Brewers roll the dice on him?

How did Bethancourt perform in 2018?

Bethancourt managed a .297/.328/.506 slash line in 104 games with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox last year. He mashed 20 homers, drove in 71 runs, and even swiped six bags.

Where there any red flags that kept him down?

There sure are.

Bethancourt did managed to lower his strikeout rate to 18.2%, but his walk rate was an anemic 4.8%. That’s actually better than his Major League career average of 3.7%, but still not great.

He also posted some serious home/road splits that make his 2018 season look like a mirage. In Colorado Springs, Bethancourt managed a .929 OPS, but he only had a .737 OPS on the road. 12 of his 20 homers came at home.

Anything else?

Bethancourt tried to reinvent himself as a pitcher with the San Diego Padres in 2017, but went back to full-time catching in 2018. Perhaps the on-again/off-again nature of his career gave the Milwaukee Brewers pause?

What’s his status for 2019?

Bethancourt was signed as a Minor League free agent last off season, and was never added to the 40-man roster. He elected to become a free agent in November, and can be signed by anyone. He’s going to get another Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training for 2019. However, he may have a few more options than he did last year based on his solid season.

Bethancourt could return to the Milwaukee Brewers, but he may want to seek a better opportunity elsewhere. The Brewers are in the mix for free agents and trade targets at the catcher position, and already have Pina, Erik Kratz, and Jacob Nottingham in the fold for Spring Training.

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Bethancourt makes sense as Minor League depth for a contender like the Brewers, but he may opt for an opportunity to earn a spot on a 25-man roster somewhere else. Bringing him back isn’t a priority for the Brewers at this point, and his return wouldn’t move the needle anyway. He’s a journeyman who had a solid season and could catch lightning in a bottle again. Bethancourt isn’t a name to get excited about if he comes back for 2019.

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