NEW YORK -- Christian Bethancourt was considered the most likely candidate to replace Brian McCann as Atlanta's starting catcher next year. But that was before Evan Gattis began providing every indication he is the man best suited for the job.
While Bethancourt is undoubtedly a better defensive option than Gattis, the offensive struggles he has experienced during his second season with Double-A Mississippi have provided his critics even more reason to wonder if he will ever live up to his tremendous potential.
"I'm trying to get there as soon as possible," Bethancourt said. "But I've got to get ready before I get there. That is what I'm trying to do."
Bethancourt's offensive woes did not prevent him from participating in his second consecutive Futures Game on Sunday afternoon at Citi Field. He entered to catch for the World Team in the bottom of the sixth inning and produced a weak fly ball in his only at-bat of the 4-2 loss to Team USA.
Bethancourt said he would have likely started the game if he had not been hit on the left wrist with a foul ball while catching for Mississippi on Thursday night. X-rays were negative and the 21-year-old native of Panama got through the final innings of this exhibition contest without any problem.
"It's an honor," Bethancourt said. "This is the second year in a row that I've gotten to represent the Braves and my country. It's a real nice feeling."
Blessed with a cannon arm and great athleticism that provides him great footwork behind the plate, Bethancourt has been deemed Major League ready from a defensive perspective for the past two years. MLB.com ranks him as the Braves' second-best prospect and the game's seventh-best catching prospect.
But the 6-foot-2, 220-pound catcher has not helped his cause while hitting .262 with an alarming .292 on-base percentage while facing Double-A pitching for a second straight season this year.
There is no doubt that Bethancourt has made some strides since hitting .243 with a .275 on-base percentage for Mississippi last year. But his lack of plate discipline has become a concern for the Braves.
Bethancourt has drawn 74 walks in 1,666 career plate appearances at the Minor League level. While playing for Mississippi the past two years, he has walked a grand total of 21 times in 518 plate appearances.
"I'm trying to figure it out and put everything together," Bethancourt said. "I've just got to keep working on it and stay consistent."
Bethancourt hit .341 with a .500 slugging percentage in the 12 games he played before suffering a hamstring injury in late April. Since then he has hit .241 with a .301 slugging percentage.
"We all have bad games, but I'm just trying to be consistent," Bethancourt said. "I think that is the biggest thing for me."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.