Padres Talented Catchers Are Much More Than Backstops

Friars have rare versatility from a traditionally specialized position

Most Major League teams carry two catchers. While keeping a third on the roster, especially with rosters expanded to 26 players, is not like finding Sasquatch, it's certainly not the norm.

The Padres are looking seriously at doing just that.

Austin Nola and Victor Caratini are shoe-ins for the Opening Day roster. Heralded youngster Luis Campusano (MLB Pipeline's 45th overall prospect and 3rd-best catching prospect) is going to get a chance to push for a spot, as well. The reasoning behind keeping three backstops?

They're a lot more than just catchers.

"The guys you mentioned, Nola and Caratini, have the flexibility to go to different spots on the infield and Campy, as well, has the ability to play some 1st base, as well," says Padres manager Jayce Tingler.

Nola took up catching in the Fall of 2016. He's played 1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base, left field and right field in the Major Leagues. Oh, and in college at LSU he was a good enough shortstop that the Tigers moved D.J. Lemahieu, the reigning American League batting champ, from short over to 2nd.

"I've been a utility player for the past couple of years. I'd like to really dive into my catching and continually improve on that," says Nola. "But, in emergency situations or ... at any time we need it, I'm doing whatever I can to help the team out. That's basically my bottom line."

Caratini also plays several different spots, but his repertoire is a little different. With the Cubs he's moved to 1st, 3rd, left field and right field. But Victor also has pitching on his resume.

With the Cubs he threw four innings in mop-up duty and two of them were scoreless outings. Just like Nola, he'll go wherever he's asked to go, as long as he's in the game.

"I played a fair amount of 1st base when I was with the Cubs so the important thing is getting at-bats and being able to help no matter where it is," says Caratini.

Having two capable hitters that can combine to play literally every position on the field provides the kind of roster flexibility that clubs dream about.

"We need to be a deep club, we need to be a versatile club, and the more guys we have that can do that ... we think all three of those catchers can do that," says Tingler.

Caratini came to San Diego in the Yu Darvish trade, and there's a good reason for that. Victor has come to be known as Darvish's "personal catcher," a term that caught on with the Braves 20 years ago when Greg Maddux preferred throwing to Charlie O'Brien or Eddie Perez than All-Star Javy Lopez.

But what if Nola, a right-handed hitter, is on a hot streak and the Padres are facing a tough lefty with Darvish on the mound? The Friars would fully entertain the idea of sitting a left-handed bat like Jake Cronenworth or Eric Hosmer and putting Nola on the right side of the infield.

Padres general manager A.J. Preller wanted a roster that can win any kind of game. With this depth and versatility, he's got it.

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