With Geovanny Soto going on the disabled list, prospect Welington Castillo finds himself with an opportunity to prove he wasn't a fluke this spring. Castillo, you may remember, tore up spring training in March. He flirted with a .700 batting average and had many of us prematurely writing our farewell speeches to Koyie Hill.
With recent success with former prospects like Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, Andrew Cashner, and Tyler Colvin, could Castillo be the next Cub to make an impact?
Well, it depends on what you mean by "impact". Castillo hasn't been a great player in minor league ball. He's a .259 lifetime hitter with a career OBP of .315. He's never hit more than 13 home runs.in a season nor is he an asset on the basepaths. Defensively, he's been erratic and mistake-prone. When two teams known for great talent evaluation, Texas and Tampa, came to the Cubs looking for a catcher, they both asked for Robinson Chirinos -- not Castillo.
But that's not to say there isn't some talent and potential there. Castillo may have the best arm of any catcher in the organization right now. He's thrown out 37% of base runners in his minor league career -- including an ouststanding 44% just two years ago. And while he may be erratic at times, he possesses an outstanding defensive skill set behind the plate. He's agile and athletic for a man of his pudge-like build (Ivan Rodriguez, not Carlton Fisk).
At the plate, Castillo has struggled since his great spring. He's hitting .245 with 2 home runs at Iowa. The encouraging thing is he has changed his approach somewhat. Once a hacktastic swinger, he now shows some semblance of patience -- walking over 10% of the time so far this season for the first time in his career. He has decent pop, more than Hill but not as much as Geovanny Soto.
This year, we shouldn't expect a whole lot. He'll split time with Koyie Hill rather than play everyday. But when he's in there, we should expect a catcher capable of making great plays behind the plate while occasionally making you smack yourself on the forehead. At the plate, we should be happy if he hits .250 with a home run or two.
Long term, it's unlikely he'll unseat incumbent Geovanny Soto as the Cubs starting catcher. If he were to play everyday and reach his full potential, we're probably looking at a guy who peaks at around .260-.270 with 12-15 home runs with great defense -- that's definitely a solid starter that would allow the Cubs to trade either Castillo or Soto for help in other areas -- but his downside would be a guy who hits .220-.230, swings at everything and continues to make mistakes behind the plate.
The Cubs were right to sent Castillo down despite his hot spring. He still has work to do and it wouldn't be the worst thing to see him take the Soto route of 2 1/2 years in AAA to hone his skills. For now, we can expect an occasional great play and some occasional pop -- and a frequent longing for the return of Geovanny Soto.