Braves Have Enhanced Catcher Depth

ATLANTA—One year ago, the Braves’ depth chart at catcher consisted of top prospect Christian Bethancourt, 2013 fourth-rounder Tanner Murphy and little else.

That scenario, not unlike the rest of the Atlanta system, has changed considerably. The Braves traded Bethancourt to the Padres in December, while Murphy, a gifted defender, hit .193 during a difficult season at low Class A Rome.

Atlanta believes it has added significant catching depth over the past year by drafting four receivers in 2015 and acquiring 18-year-old Venezuelan catcher Ricardo Rodriguez from San Diego in the Bethancourt deal.

Considered to be one of the top international amateur catchers available in 2014, Rodriguez spent most of 2015 in the Dominican Summer League but has the catch-and-throw skills and awareness to make an impact at higher levels.

The 2015 draft, meanwhile, produced second-rounder Lucas Herbert from San Clemente (Calif.) High. He was limited to three games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League before suffering a meniscus tear in late June, but he should be ready this spring.

“His makeup is off the charts,” general manager John Coppolella said. “He’s a plus catch-and-throw guy who has a chance to hit and hit for power.”

Atlanta also added Trey Keegan out of Bowling Green State in the 14th round. He had Tommy John surgery in 2013 but possesses above-average arm strength that led to him throwing out 47.5 percent of basestealers in 2015, which ranked him in the top five in all of NCAA Division I.

The Braves also signed Jonathan Morales (Miami Dade JC) in the 25th round and Collin Yelich (Sam Houston State) in the 29th round. The Puerto Rican-born Morales hit .304/.377/.511 in 46 games in the GCL.


• The Braves believe seventh-rounder Patrick Weigel could prove to be one of the steals of the 2015 draft. The 6-foot-6 righthander from Houston struggled to throw strikes in college but has been up to 99 mph with sink in pro ball.

• The Braves extended non-roster invitations to spring training to many of their top prospects, including lefthander Sean Newcomb, righthanders Aaron Blair and Lucas Sims, shortstops Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies and outfielder Braxton Davidson.

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