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The Road to The Show™: Dodgers catcher Cartaya

No. 12 overall prospect at full strength, showing elite potential
Diego Cartaya has 30 homers over his first 109 games of full-season ball. (Jerry Espinoza/
August 16, 2022

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at top Dodgers prospect Diego Cartaya. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. As a Venezuelan catcher in the Dodgers system, Diego

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at top Dodgers prospect Diego Cartaya. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.

As a Venezuelan catcher in the Dodgers system, Diego Cartaya is becoming a shining example of some of the most successful player development trends in recent years.

MLB Pipeline’s No. 12 overall prospect also holds the top ranking in the Los Angeles farm system, which was considered fifth-best in baseball at the start of the season. He’s also one of 13 catchers ranked among the Top 100 and one of eight backstops considered their organization’s top prospect.

And finally, Cartaya and the only other catchers ranked above him, the Mets’ Francisco Álvarez and Blue Jays’ Gabriel Moreno, are Venezuelan. Now listed at 6-foot-3, 219 pounds, Cartaya drew early comparisons to one of the game’s best backstops, Salvador Perez, who’s not only a fellow Venezuelan, but also a larger-bodied power-hitter.

Cartaya opened this season with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga before being promoted to High-A Great Lakes in May. A recent homer barrage, during which Cartaya went deep in three consecutive games for the Loons, illustrated his elite potential. He’s already bashed 20 homers in 78 games this season with 30 total in 109 games stateside.

“I’m kind of surprised,” Cartaya told with a laugh after a two-homer game in July. “I never thought that I was going to be a power hitter. I just try and put a good swing on the ball, and good things are happening. … It felt good. I just try and help the team, and usually home runs always feel good.”

That Cartaya was able to tap into his power was hardly a surprise to most evaluators who have seen him since he was first on the circuit in Venezuela. A native of Marcay, Cartaya played third base for his age group’s national team at 10 years old and moved behind the plate just as he began to get scouted by Major League clubs.

The Dodgers established a history with Cartaya while waiting out some international spending penalties. Los Angeles spent more than $20 million on a 2015 international class that would eventually be headlined by two players the club traded away -- Oneil Cruz and Yusniel Diaz. Their spending on the international market was capped for the next two years at $300,000, so the Dodgers put most of their focus toward the 2018 class. When Cartaya, who was considered by Pipeline to be the top international prospect that year, was eligible to sign that July, he inked a deal worth a reported $2.5 million.

“When I turned 14 or 15 I realized that I could sign with a team but I never thought that I would be a prospect or a really followed player,” Cartaya told FanSided in April. “I thought that there was a chance I could sign with a team but I never expected it to be the Dodgers. I’m really thankful that I signed with this team.”

The initial reports were that Cartaya’s profile was bat over glove. He was a bit too big and didn’t move very fast, and there were concerns about his blocking and receiving skills behind the plate. While he may still be a more advanced hitter than defender, Cartaya has earned some high praise for his agility -- despite his size -- behind the plate, an arm strength that gives him the ability to control the running game and soft hands that should help him develop into a better receiver.

Cartaya’s first professional assignment was in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2019, where he played just 13 games before coming stateside to the Rookie-level Arizona League. Over 49 total contests, he batted .281/.343/.432 with 18 extra-base hits, including 12 doubles and four homers, and 22 RBIs. Cartaya grew frustrated that some of those doubles and triples weren’t leaving the yard, and made a point to reach his full power potential as he entered his first full season.

But, of course, the pandemic threw that plan off course. Rather than having Cartaya return to Venezuela during the lost season, the Dodgers retraced the steps of another Venezuelan catcher they’d recently developed into a Major Leaguer, Keibert Ruiz.

Ruiz, who was traded from the Dodgers to the Nationals at last year’s deadline, spent the 2017 offseason with Travis Barbary, the club’s catching coordinator and current manager of Triple-A Oklahoma City. Like Ruiz, Cartaya lived with Barbary’s family in his home in South Carolina before making his full-season debut in 2021.

Since the start of last season, Cartaya has battled some issues with back injuries. He was limited to just 31 games in 2021, but he also tore the cover off the ball when healthy, batting .298 with a 1.023 OPS, 10 homers and 31 RBIs.

The 20-year-old has managed to avoid the injured list this season, but he was cautiously removed from a game at the end of July for an undisclosed injury and suffered a hand injury that kept him out of the lineup for a couple days just before the Futures Game at Dodger Stadium.

Cartaya felt well enough to play in the prospect showcase at what could soon be his home ballpark. He scored a run but went hitless in two at-bats. Cartaya also started behind the plate with fellow Dodgers prospect Bobby Miller on the mound.

“Hopefully, I’ll be [at Dodger Stadium] soon. That’s my dream,” Cartaya told reporters after the game.

Cartaya’s recent performance in Great Lakes proved he was worthy of the early promotion. He returned to the Quakes for 33 games to start the season before getting the bump to the Midwest League. In his brief stint in Rancho Cucamonga, Cartaya bashed nine homers -- including a two-run shot off rehabbing Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell -- with 31 RBIs and a .955 OPS.

Cartaya is likely to move quickly and could help the Dodgers maintain their run of dominance if he remains both with the club and healthy. His name surfaced in rumors at the Trade Deadline, and probably will again next year if the Dodgers are in a similar position. Regardless of where he ends up, Cartaya certainly has a big-league future.

Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for