After a moribund majority of the season, Dodgers top catching prospect Diego Cartaya heated up in a scorching August that might've salvaged his campaign. Dalton Rushing, 2022's second-round catcher/first baseman, earned a Futures Game appointment in Seattle with his scalding power, though he finished the season with a Max Muncy-like .228 average/.404 OBP split.
Both prospects have their flaws and their admirers. And the Dodgers absolutely, positively need to trade one or both before either man devalues himself further. Will Smith is your catcher. Freddie Freeman is your first baseman. A watched pot never boils, and a watched prospect never gains value.
In the summer of 2021, Andrew Friedman felt comfortable enough with the timelines of his various catchers to part with Keibert Ruiz, formerly the team's No. 1 prospect. You have to give to get, and he certainly got that summer, sending Ruiz and Josiah Gray to Washington in exchange for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, elbowing the Padres out of the way and invalidating Ken Rosenthal's gun-jumping in the process.
Smith was in the midst of his first dominant full season, under team control through 2025. Ruiz was rising through the ranks, and Cartaya was ~2 years behind him, but was being appraised similarly. Friedman could afford to surrender the developing Ruiz for genuine stars, given his All-Star-level young big-league catcher and teenaged prospect coup.
Now, Cartaya is approaching Ruiz's level of seasoning, but he took a significant step back in 2023. Rushing is nipping at his heels, and the college bat might even surpass him in 2024. Smith still hasn't moved.
Dodgers must trade Diego Cartaya or Dalton Rushing
If the summer of 2021 was the right time to cash in on Ruiz, then it's possible the 2022-23 offseason was the right time to try Cartaya if you had no intention of moving Smith.
Ideally, his value doesn't recede further, but the Dodgers might need to dangle him this offseason before it's too late.
Still just 22, the Venezuelan catcher followed up a sparkling 2022 season -- 22 homers, 72 RBI, an .855 OPS at High-A after getting elevated to the Loons as a 20-year-old -- with what can only be described as a "stinker" (or, more optimistically, a roadblock). Cartaya left a full season in Double-A Tulsa with a .189 average, .278 OBP, .657 OPS and 19 homers, six of which came in August (he still hit .222 in the month).
22 is young, but 22 is not "phenom" young. Cartaya is one bad half away from receding off the charts. If the Dodgers still believe he has a brighter future than Rushing, the time is now to trade the more advanced college bat. But if they're no longer certain, they might be forced to sell low on their ex-teenaged dream -- especially considering the entire baseball world knows both men are blocked at the big-league level.
In terms of asset management, it seems Friedman did not learn much from his circa-2021 self.