More Than The Glove: Christian Bethancourt Breakout Offensive Season Helps Lead Indianapolis

Photo Credit: Bayley Zobel via MiLB.com

 There was a time when Christian Bethancourt was one of the best catching prospects in the game with the Atlanta Braves. The San Diego Padres even tried to use him as a utility two-way player off the bench and out the bullpen, to fully take advantage of his arm.

But with the 2021 season down to the last day, Bethancourt, now 30 and fresh off a stint in the KBO in 2019, has made an impact to the Indianapolis Indians roster in a way he isn't known for - his offense.

Bethancourt, a native of Panama, has never been know for his bat. He owns a career .725 OPS in the minors and an even worse .567 in his brief time in the majors. Signed as a minor league free agent this past offseason, Bethancourt came alive offensively, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates' triple-A affiliate in both hits and RBIs.

He tied Bligh Madris for the team lead in extra base hits, and only Hunter Owen went over the fence more times on the roster.

Collectively, Bethancourt has posted a batting slash of .281/.339/.468 in his first season in the Pirates system. He hit 14 home runs, drove in 60 runs, to go along with his 33 extra base hits.

A career catcher in the minors, Bethancourt split time at first base along with behind the plate, he even played in 12 games in right field, a natural landing spot for someone with his arm.

With so much emphasis on adding young talent to the system, most of the focus has been on the lower levels of the minors. Add in the fact that the Indians roster for the majority of the season didn't really play into the overall theme of the rest of the organization (youth movement), it was easy to overlook some of what was going on in Indianapolis.

Bethancourt being one of them. 

If the Pirates decided to look for another backup catcher for next year, Bethancourt stayed around his career caught stealing mark of 38% (39% in 2021). It will just be a matter of if the improvements he made offensively can translate to the next level.

Regardless, Bethancourt seemingly came out of nowhere and became the Indians most consistent offensive threat, giving him one of the better stories to come out the Pirates' system that seemed to be never talked about.

Here are some other notables that spent the year with Indianapolis.

>>Bligh Madris began the year with the Altoona Curve, but injuries forced him up to triple-A where he has another consistent bat for Indianapolis. He has posted a .777 OPS to go along with a team-leading 33 extra-base hits (tied with Bethancourt). His 55 RBIs trail only Bethancourt.

>>Hunter Owen got a brief cup of coffee with the Pirates this year, playing sparingly. Returning to triple-A, Owen has capped off his season by hitting his 20th home run recently, one of a handful in the Pirates' system to do so this year.

>>It will be interesting how the Pirates handle their bullpen next year, with potentially a decent sized turnover happening. They could go the free agent route to add to the roster, but you can likely expect to see some of the triple-A arms get an invite to spring training to see what they got.

While his 4.76 ERA isn't the most ideal looking one for being in the minors, former eighth round pick out of Kansas Blake Weiman could be an interesting player going forward. Looking past his ERA, Weiman posted a 5-0 record, struck out 45 batters in 45 1/3 innings and showed good control out of the bullpen (12 walks). He also held the opposition to a .218 average.

Weiman also got better as the season went on. In the month of September, the lefty pitched in 10 games, striking out 21 in 12 innings and held opponents to a .122 average.

Who are some names that stuck out at the triple-A level this season? Do you think any of them will get a look at during major league camp in 2022? Let us know what you think in the comment section below, subscribe to the site with the link at the top of the page and follow us on Twitter @__Murphy88 and @SportBlogMurphy.

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