Braves considering bringing Bethancourt into mix

Braves considering bringing Bethancourt into mix

ATLANTA -- As Christian Bethancourt has continued to surge offensively for Triple-A Gwinnett and B.J. Upton has extended his struggles, the Braves have at least started toying with the idea of moving Evan Gattis to left field.

Though a decision does not necessarily seem imminent, the Braves have discussed the possibility of promoting Bethancourt to serve as Atlanta's starting catcher. If this decision were to be made, Gattis would move to left field and Justin Upton would transition to right field. To complete this equation, Jason Heyward would replace B.J. Upton in center field.

B.J. Upton provided some glimmer of hope as he produced a .354 on-base percentage in the 15 games played from May 19-June 3. But, he has still hit just .220 with a .301 OBP in his past 25 games. In addition, the Braves have gained more reason to be concerned about his defense. Upton dropped a routine fly ball in Friday's eighth inning and then booted a single that led to a costly run in the eighth inning of Saturday night's 13-inning loss to the Angels. But like with the diving catch he made to rob Josh Hamilton of an extra-base hit in Sunday's seventh inning, he has still occasionally flashed his former defensive brilliance.

The Braves have been more than patient since giving Upton a five-year, $75.25 million contract before the 2013 season. But that patience has worn thin as the defensive miscues have further highlighted the fact that Upton's bid to bounce back from last year's career-worst season has not yet materialized. He has batted .210 with a .634 OPS through his first 64 games.

Meanwhile, as Bethancourt has batted .312 with a .764 OPS in his past 37 games, he has at least given the Braves an alternative. There has never been much reason to be concerned about Bethancourt's defensive skills, which have been deemed Major League ready for the past three years. But now that the 22-year-old catcher is showing some signs of optimism at the plate, the Braves are getting the sense he's ready for a promotion.

"We're hearing [Bethancourt] right now," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We're paying attention."

Bethancourt, who has been compared to a young Benito Santiago, would certainly provide the Braves a defensive upgrade behind the plate. The team would also seemingly benefit from a defensive perspective by replacing B.J. Upton in center field with Heyward, who leads the Majors with 20 Defensive Runs Saved.

Gattis, who entered Sunday leading the Braves in home runs (15) and OPS (.936), is no stranger to left field. He made 48 starts at the position last year and manned the position throughout the postseason, during which Heyward was in center and Justin Upton was in right.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.