The Padres are exploring the idea of turning catcher Christian Bethancourt into a multi-position player, reports Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Bethancourt has thrown two bullpen sessions and could become a pitcher/catcher/outfielder hybrid, per Lin, who notes that the Padres recently shifted ex-catcher prospect Jorge Ruiz to the mound (Twitter links).
Bethancourt’s best asset is likely his arm, which some scouts have graded an 80 on the 20-80 scale, and the right-hander did see some time as a pitcher this year before suffering a season-ending intercostal strain at the end of August. The 25-year-old Bethancourt made two appearances on the mound and totaled 1 2/3 innings with three hits, a walk and a strikeout. Interestingly, Bethancourt’s pitches ranged from 54 mph to 96 mph during that limited sample size, with Mike Petriello of MLB.com noting (via Twitter) that he complemented his fastball with a changeup and knuckleball.
The Padres aren’t the first team to consider a position change for Bethancourt. His previous organization, the Braves, also mulled converting him into a pitcher, according to Lin. Ultimately, Atlanta traded the former top 100 prospect to the Padres last December.
Bethancourt hit an unpalatable .228/.265/.368 in 204 plate appearances with the Friars this season, which was actually a significant improvement over the .200/.225/.290 line he recorded in 160 PAs as a Brave in 2015. But such subpar production won’t suffice either behind the plate, where the Padres already have a potential long-term solution in Austin Hedges, or in the outfield. Bethancourt did garner some experience in the grass this season, though, as he picked up limited action in both corners. Now the Padres are deciding whether to have Bethancourt divvy up his time among the outfield, the mound and behind the plate going forward.