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Christian Bethancourt returned to Double-A Mississippi in 2013.
Christian Bethancourt has made a name for himself with a stellar defensive reputation since signing with the Braves in 2008 as a non-drafted free agent. However, the offensive side of his game remains a work in progress.
Bethancourt, 21, was chosen to represent Atlanta in the All-Star Futures Game last season in Kansas City. Despite the fact that injuries and inconsistency held him to .243/.275/.291 slash line in 71 games with Double-A Mississippi, the Braves are hoping the experience and the lessons learned will lead to better result this time around.
Baseball America has tabbed Bethancourt as the best defensive catcher in the Braves system in three of the last four seasons. The publication also saw fit to name him the top defensive catcher in the Southern League last year.
Already on Atlanta's 40-man roster, Bethancourt has shown a great arm as well, throwing out 39 percent of would-be base stealers for Mississippi in 2012. He has nabbed just two of his first 12 in nine games this season, but there is plenty of time for that percentage to rise.
Offense will remain a key question surrounding Bethancourt as he rises through the system. Though he is a career .265 hitter, he has just 14 homers in 1,336 minor league at-bats.
During spring training, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told Mark Bowman of MLB.com that he saw some improvements from Bethancourt in winter ball and Grapefruit League action.
"That swing has gotten better. When you listen to the reports and hear the guys talk, they always talk about his swing and say he's not ready yet. But just watching batting practice and the four at-bats I saw in winter ball, I think there is improvement there."
Bethancourt's return to Mississippi may have been affected by the emergence of Evan Gattis, who eventually made the big club with All-Star catcher Brian McCann on the disabled list.
If Bethancourt finds some offensive consistency and pairs that with his already proven track record behind the plate, he could find himself in Gwinnett by mid-season. He is another candidate to get a look as a September call-up.