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Caratini among top 10 catcher prospects

Maddon impressed by youngster's defensive skills in 2017 debut
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have yet to add a backup catcher to Willson Contreras. They may have that person already on the roster in Victor Caratini.

Caratini, 24, was named one of the top 10 catching prospects in baseball by MLB Pipeline, and he has definitely impressed the Cubs so far.

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have yet to add a backup catcher to Willson Contreras. They may have that person already on the roster in Victor Caratini.

Caratini, 24, was named one of the top 10 catching prospects in baseball by MLB Pipeline, and he has definitely impressed the Cubs so far.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Last season, Caratini was promoted to the big league team in late June. Contreras handled the majority of games, but on July 30 in Milwaukee, Anthony Rizzo was a late scratch and Caratini was needed to play first base. He hit a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning of the Cubs' 4-2 win over the Brewers. It also was his last game with the big league team until mid-August because the Cubs had acquired Alex Avila from the Tigers.

"It's a good moment for us, it's a good moment for him," Rizzo said at the time of Caratini's blast.

Video: CHC@MIL: Caratini hits his first Major League homer

It was the only homer he hit for the Cubs in 31 games -- he belted 10 homers and 27 doubles while batting .342 at Triple-A Iowa -- but the Cubs are counting on Caratini's defense more than his bat. The young catcher has not been shy to ask for more work with the Cubs' catching instructors to get better, and his defensive skills impressed manager Joe Maddon in his seven starts at catcher.

"He asks a lot of questions and he wants to learn," Rizzo said of Caratini. "He's a big student of the game. He's really quiet but also a really good observer. He's been nice for us, and he's learned a lot fast up here."

Caratini ranked 10th on MLB Pipeline's list, which was led by the Indians' Francisco Mejia. Cardinals prospect Carson Kelly was No. 2, and he may get more playing time soon, now that Yadier Molina has announced he will retire after the 2020 season.

Rounding out the top 10 are the Dodgers' Keibert Ruiz, the Athletics' Sean Murphy, the Tigers' Jake Rogers, the Phillies' Jorge Alfaro, the Orioles' Chance Sisco, the Blue Jays' Danny Jansen and the White Sox's Zack Collins.

Even though Contreras says he'd start all 162 games, the Cubs are a little more realistic. The question in 2018 will be whether Caratini can continue to progress if he's a backup in the big leagues or if he would be better off starting at Iowa. In five Minor League seasons, he's compiled a .289 batting average.

Video: Caratini named Cubs' Pipeline hitter of the year

When Caratini hit his first Major League home run in July, he was asked if he was trying to take Rizzo's job.

"No," Caratini said.

Cubs coach Henry Blanco, who was interpreting for Caratini, corrected him.

"The answer should be 'yes,'" Blanco said.

For now, Caratini will focus on catching.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Victor Caratini