Cubs may have found their long term catcher in Welington Castillo

Cubs may have found their long term catcher in Welington Castillo

Kevin Goldstein tweeted something interesting yesterday,

"With all these Cubs rookies up, the underrated point is they've found a young, good, every day catcher in Welington Castillo."

As you probably already know, I'm a fan of Castillo.  He doesn't have polished receiving or game-calling skills yet and his hit tool is probably going to be average at best.  That will likely prevent him from being an elite catcher.  But having a catcher who can contribute in all phases is rare.

In my opinion, you want 3 things from a good everyday catcher,

  1. You want him to be at least an adequate receiver and preferably a good one.  You want him to be able to handle the pitching staff.
  2. You want him to control the running game.
  3. You want him to make some contribution on offense, preferably some power.

Castillo is working toward becoming an adequate receiver and while it's a small sample size and defensive metrics for catchers are still in the rudimentary stage, Castillo's rating is right around average at -0.2 this season and 0.3 in his short career.  He has the talent to become more than adequate, however, provided he can continue to develop at the major league level.

He has thrown out 31% of baserunners, which is above average, but not spectacular.  There is no question about Castillo's arm strength and his quick release, though.  He has the tools to improve on that already solid rate with more help from his pitching staff.

At the plate, Castillo has worked hard to improve his approach, going from a free swinger to having enough discipline to post a respectable 9% walk rate in his AAA career.  But, realistically, Castillo isn't going to be an OBP guy because he probably won't hit for a very high average anyway.  What Castillo can contribute is some occasional pop at the bottom of the order.   In this season so far, his slugging pct. has been .470 and his ISO is a very respectable .205.  You hope he can hit about .260, put up something close to a league average walk rate and hit 15-20 HRs.  That's not a star, but it would give the Cubs an above average starter at the position at close to the league minimum with 5 years of cost control remaining.

The Cubs don't have a catcher with that sort of skill set in their minors.   They have some interesting bats, such as Justin Marra way down in AZ, plus Neftali Rosario, an intriguing player who has had trouble staying healthy.  They also have some catch and throw types like Chadd Krist (Peoria), Rafael Lopez (Daytona), and Micah Gibbs (Daytona).  Of those players, I like Lopez's bat the best, but all project as backups at best in the majors right now.

One of the few areas of depth in the 2013 drafts appears to be the high school catching crop.   It wouldn't be surprising at all to see the Cubs draft one or two early, but high school catchers don't tend to move very quickly.  There's a big learning curve defensively and just like the majors, it isn't easy to find a guy who can contribute on defense while also projecting as someone who can be an asset in your lineup.  That's why polished all-around catchers like Matt Weiters and Mike Zunino tend to go extremely high in the draft.

So for now, Cubs fans should be happy they have found a good, young everyday catcher in Welington Castillo with another young catcher, Steve Clevenger, who should complement him well as a backup.

Filed under: Analysis

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  • Am a huge fan of Castillo. However, not a big fan of Clevenger

  • In reply to drew:

    I think he can hit better than he's shown since coming back from the injury, but Clevenger is really a backup. Even then, you'd like a guy with a better arm. Teams seem to like to run on him.

  • In reply to drew:

    You think Koyie Hill is a better option?

    Epstein is going in the right direction with Castillo and Clevenger.

  • You knew I'd be weighing in on this one..... lol

    I think that's a pretty fair & accurate assessment of "Beef", except.... I think you understate the importance of his receiving skills. While you acknowledge that's his weakness, and acknowledge that it's #1 on the traits of skills an everyday catcher needs.... It's really like #1, #2, & #3 all rolled into #1. Especially with such a young & developing pitching staff.

    I think he will be an above-average everyday catcher for the reasons you stated. I just think that right now, we really need our everyday catchers strength to be receiving & working the staff.

    The other glaring concern is we have nothing else in the minors. We paid money for the right to sign Koyie !$&*! Hill when we had 3 injured Catchers this year.... That statement just made me puke in my mouth a little bit... but really, I'd love to see the FO load up on decent Catching & Pitching prospects from here on out as those are our two biggest needs.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Latin America is a good source for catching talent too. If Castillo doesn't cut it, though, the Cubs will have to acquire one outside the organization in the short term, which could be costly considering the value of the position.

    The good thing about Castillo's weakness as a receiver is that it's one area you can improve on if you're willing to put in the work, and by all accounts, Castillo seems more than willing to do that. He's already come a long way as a very mistake prone catcher at the lower levels of the minors to being someone I'd consider adequate right now -- but agreed you'd like him to become more than adequate in that area. I think he can.

  • They left Castillo down in Iowa so he could get regular ABs and develop. Sveum said in spring training that Castillo was going to make a lot of money an play in all-star games in the majors someday.

    Living in the SF bay area I get to watch former #5 pick Buster Posey regularly, who is an incredible young catcher.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I remember Sveum saying that. He has the skills and even the numbers I just projected would make him a borderline all-star, especially if he's gunning down baserunners like we know he can.

  • I'm back to the classroom, so that means my ability to watch the Cubs regularly has really suffered.

    As far as Castillo is concerned, one noticeable thing that he could work on is the framing of pitches, as well as the target that he sets for the pitcher. It's a complaint I also had of Soto, that occasionally Castillo sets a very late target, often when the pitcher is well into the pitching motion. I would think that is distracting to the pitcher...it would be to me, at least. There are also some subtle catching moves that he could make to frame pitches that are on the borderline. These are some little things that could make a big difference both in results, as well as working with the Cubs' pitching staff.

    Offensively, I'm not concerned about Castillo at all. I think that Soto set up some unreasonable expectations for what a catcher should produce with that nice rookie season in '08. If your catcher can hit .250-.260 with some decent pop, it makes a huge difference in the lineup. I was kind of shocked to see a few readers from even here ready to move on from Castillo after the base-running error last week (9th inning single that should have been stretched to a double). He is a kid, still learning his role in the majors. That's a play that he will learn from and realize that he has the capability and confidence to make as he acclimates to the league. Not sure why that mistake was so catastrophic for someone to dismiss the kid all-together when Vitters seems to get a free pass for hitting at .100 since his call-up.

    I agree with John that Clevenger is a backup. He is the quintessential Cub, in that he has below-average talent, but over-achieved for a short period, only to come back to earth. But during that period of over-achieving, he managed to build up a bit of a following among Cubs fans. I call it the Doug Descenzo effect.

    I've got an off-topic comment. I live in Kansas, and subscribe tot he mlb.tv package, which also gives me the MLB At Bat app for free for use on the iPad and iPhone. Because my schedule hasn't allowed me to watch as many games live of late, I've been listening to WGN radio broadcasts through the iPhone, and I've had a chance to listen to the Hughes/Moreland project. Does it seem to anyone else that Moreland tries to "dumb down" his act because it's what people are used to? I'm not saying that Santo was dumb, but certainly one of his more endearing qualities was that Ronnie wasn't always up-to-date with the latest trends. It seems to me that Moreland is either trying to hard to re-create that image, or that Hughes even draws it out. I think that Moreland actually does a very respectable job when Hughes is on his break, and wonder if that particular shtick is something that is perpetuated by Hughes himself. What do you guys think about this?

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Good stuff Sinister. I agree that some of what Castillo needs to improve is important but fixable.

    Never thought about that with Moreland, but maybe you're right. I don't listen to the radio as much so next time I do, I'll have to pay attention to that. Wonder what other readers who listen more on the radio have to say about that.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I've never taken that angle but have thought that Ronnie and Keith have very similar personality traits. I never noticed this so much when I'd listen to Keith do the Longhorn baseball broadcasts here in Austin but just comparing them, the way they both come off, see very eerily similar.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    If you live in Kansas, try catching the nearby Royals' games or highlights. If anyone wants to see the prototypical young catcher with plus marks for a), b), and c), watch Salvador Perez.

    Catch his game-saving tag last night on the MLB highlights for example.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    I'm not sure about the Moreland thing either. Firstly I think he is an average analyst. I would have preferred even Dave Otto in that role. However, I do think Pat tries to replicate the shtick as well. Now the fact they have Zonk doing even some play by play to me is baffling, it's really, really bad.

  • I really like Castillo and think he will be above average with the numbers John talked about. I see him developing as a game caller and seems to have the potential to be a leader. This could be a nice piece we already have here.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    This pretty much sums up my thoughts exactly. Imo Castillo has the look of an all-star type player in the future. He may not be on this level but if we look at a guy like yadier molina in his early days you see a lot of similarities. Castillo has a long way to go but unlike a Clevenger for example the tools to reach that level are there.

  • 2014 lineup

    1B - Rizzo
    2B - Barney
    SS - Castro
    3B - Baez
    LF- Soler
    CF - Jackson
    RF - Almora
    C - Castillo

    I can live with this lineup.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Mike nailed it with Soler... that cannon belongs in RF and Almora is likely our best CF prospect and Jackson can slide to LF or traded or whatever.....

    2015/2016 line-up of:

    2B - a true lead-off hitter that plays plus Def. (Barney traded)
    CF - Almora
    3B - Baez
    1B - Rizzo
    RF- Soler
    SS - Castro
    LF - Jackson
    C - Castillo
    P - ?????

  • fb_avatar

    I think Almora is probably still in the minors when 2014 starts, but even then, not quite right. But, when Almora is ready, he is probably a better defensive center fielder, so he would play there, and the Cuban Missile Launcher's arm slots VERY nicely into right. That leaves Jackson in left (if his bat can handle it), a 4th outfielder or -- probably most likely -- on another team while we have a couple good prospects in our system.

    Left field can be a free agent. With the amount of thunder we'll be getting out of our SS and CF slots with your dream lineup, LF can be a second CF guy who provides plus defense for the position and is a true leadoff hitter.

  • Someone please tell me again when our television contract is up?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    You don't want me to tell you that.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I want to say in another 5 or so years, but I'll brace myself.

  • Whether he's a starter, world-class backup, or trade bait, Castillo's going to help when the team is good.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    I don't know who'd they'd start if not Castillo.

  • I agree more with Hoosier's comment and worry about Beef's defense. I think fans often undervalue defense because it's not usually as flashy and it's hard to measure statistically. It's why Barney is so much more value than most fans realize. But with a catcher, defense and calling the game are by far the most important skills - it's why Koyie Hill had such a long career.
    Beef is 25, so I would expect better defense by now. For example, ever since Brenly pointed out a few months ago that Beef was dragging borderline pitches further away from the strike zone, I've been noticing that he continues to frame pitches poorly, although he has shown some improvement.

  • I too like some of the Cubs upcoming talent, but see little to be excited about behind the plate. While Castillo has shown some pop with the bat and potential behind the dish, I'm not ready to put him in the Molina/Ruiz camp. In fact, I'm not sure he'll be as good as Geo was in his "good years." Clevenger has shown little since coming back from injury, and when you look at the minors no catcher would be considered a top prospect.

    As with pitching, this is an area for Jed/Theo to upgrade by trade in in the draft.

  • The thing of it is guys, a catcher can move as quickly as their talent allows them within our system. There's no one blocking him at any level.... I've been reading reports on the H.S. catchers for the 2013 draft and this class is DEEP. You want Theo & Jed to do their thing and get the BPA available... but we need a couple of legit prospects behind the plate. Catcher is always the fastest track to the show. So they could potentially be ready when the team is a contender.

    Beef needs a lot of work before he's anywhere close to Molina. That's not to say he can't or won't be good or better than average. But with Posey/Molina/Ruiz etc, in the NL.... Beef is a long ways away from an all star catcher.....

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