Backstop Bethancourt opening eyes with arm

Backstop Bethancourt opening eyes with arm

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Catcher Christian Bethancourt impressed when he hit five home runs in 72 at-bats during the Arizona Fall League. While competing in Grapefruit League games over the past couple of weeks, he has proved why he is truly considered one of the game's top prospects.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who won four Gold Glove Awards during his catching days, was certainly impressed on Monday when he clocked Bethancourt's throw to second base at 1.75 seconds. The Braves actually clocked their prospect's throw at 1.84 seconds. Either way, the time puts Bethancourt in a special category.

"The quickest I've seen is probably around 1.8," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "I've heard of guys being in the 1.7 [range], and Bethancourt being one of those guys. Also, Pudge Rodriguez [is in that range]. But beyond that, I haven't seen that."

Bethancourt, who ranks seventh among's best catching prospects, will likely begin this season with Double-A Mississippi. The 20-year-old catcher could eventually be the successor to Brian McCann, whose contract expires at the end of the 2013 season.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Bethancourt was also clocked at 1.84 with a throw he made during a March 5 game against the Astros in Kissimmee, Fla.

"We haven't seen that very often, that kind of talent," Gonzalez said.