LAS VEGAS -- Victor Caratini is playing with his confidence at an all-time high, and his on field performance is benefiting.
The Cubs' No. 12 prospect had every reason to be confident entering the 2017 season. Caratini posted his best statistical year in 2016, posting full-season career highs in several offensive categories, including batting average (.291), on-base percentage (.375) and slugging percentage (.405) in 115 games with Double-A Tennessee.
While those numbers would help any player feel good, it was another event, an offseason transaction, that excited the prospect.
On Nov. 18, the Cubs added Caratini to the 40-man roster, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft. It was a vote of confidence from the organization, and Caratini is rewarding it.
"I feel more confident," Caratini said through interpreter and Iowa Cubs hitting coach Mariano Duncan. "It makes me happy to be on the 40-man roster, but at the same time I'm trying to continue to produce so that sooner or later, when I'm needed, I can go up to Chicago and be on the 25-man."
Caratini can hit from both sides of the plate. He batted .291 last year and is hitting .358 through 36 games in his first taste of Triple-A ball this season. The former second-round pick has 14 multi-hit games and has notched three homers, halfway to his career high.
MILB Video - Title: Caratini's RBI double - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1373202883
"The sky's the limit," Iowa Cubs manager Marty Pevey said. "He's an intelligent kid, so the sky is the limit for him."
However, his path to the 25-man roster may be a bit convoluted.
A converted infielder, Caratini now spends most of his time behind the plate. The 23-year-old initially played third base after he was drafted, but he has put in a lot of time developing his craft behind the plate and has grown to enjoy the responsibilities that come with the position, now listing it as his favorite.
"He loves the game," Pevey said. "He's a gym rat, does his work. You don't have to tell him things twice. He's smart, intelligent. He's worked hard to become a frontline catcher."
However, Willson Contreras has solidified that position in Chicago. Caratini also splits time at first base, but Anthony Rizzo isn't going anywhere. Caratini may have begun his professional career at third, but he hasn't played there since 2013, and Kristopher Bryant is the reigning National League MVP.
Caratini is blocked by the Cubs' current crop of young talent, but versatile players often find homes, especially under Joe Maddon, who, perhaps better than any other manager in baseball, finds creative ways to get everyone in the lineup.
"I'm very happy because Joe Maddon is the type of manager that likes to move players around, and when you play multiple positions, it'll be a lot better for me," Caratini said. "Especially when I'm swinging the bat well, Joe will find a way to get you in the lineup. I'm very happy to be in the Cubs organization."