One of the key reasons that the Los Angeles Dodgers have been able to be as successful as they have for as long as they have is that they have a top notch player development system. As much as people want to point to all of the money the Dodgers spend, the reality is that the team wouldn't be in this position without homegrown talents like Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Will Smith, and others that have since gone on to other teams. The Dodgers know how to develop stars as well as sign them.
While this offseason spending spree has been going on, the Dodgers still have maintained among the better minor league systems in baseball with talent on both sides of the ball. One of their top prospects, Diego Cartaya, came into the 2023 season as one of the best prospects in the league and arguably the top catching prospect in baseball. Unfortunately, a rough 2023 season has altered his trajectory a bit and, on Friday night, he fell off MLB Pipeline's top 100 prospects list altogether heading into the 2024 season. He began last season in the No. 14 spot on the list, notably the biggest fall from grace of any prospect (according to the rankings).
Diego Cartaya's fall from grace isn't quite as bad as you think
There is no denying that Cartaya's 2023 season was pretty brutal. The Dodgers were aggressive in promoting him to Double-A and, while the power numbers were still there, he slashed .189/.278/.379. The only thing he was hitting was homers. If he can't restore confidence in his hit tool, there is a real possibility that his ceiling will be strictly as a backup catcher in the big leagues.
That said, a certain amount of patience with Cartaya is probably warranted. He is only 22 years old and developing at a position that is notoriously difficult. If he takes a couple years refining his approach at the plate while also learning how to call games at a high level and manage a pitching staff, so be it. It isn't like LA has to rush him, with Will Smith under contract for the next two seasons and Dalton Rushing also progressing in the minors.
Cartaya is still an incredibly talented player and things could still work out. However, this is a reminder that just because a teenager gets a big seven-figure bonus in international free agency doesn't mean that they will become anything. So much still has to go right for players that young to develop into productive big leaguers. For Cartaya, it appears that he has a lot more work to do than many initially thought.