Pitching coming together. What about the rest of team? Part 1: Catchers

As we mentioned a couple of days ago, the Cubs go 7 deep in their rotation before having to dip into AAA for additional depth.  That added depth in the rotation should spill over into the bullpen and fortify that as well.

How does the rest of the team look so far and are the Cubs done shopping?

I’m going to start a position-by-position look using Bill James for offensive projections and scouting and metrics for their defensive outlook.  Then we’ll look at whether the Cubs should look to add help at that position and some future prospects down the road…

We’ll start with the Catchers today.

Offensive outlook

  • Welington Castillo: .253/.316/.423 with 13 HRs, .171 ISO, and an 8.3% walk rate
  • Dioner Navarro: (no projection) Career .245/.306/.357, .111 ISO, 7.6% walk rate
  • Steve Clevenger: .265/.322/.385 with 3 HRs, .075 ISO, 7.8% walk rate

Castillo is the only one of the three who figures to make any kind of impact on offense.  He combines power with a constantly improving ability to grind out ABs.  Offensively, he’s developing into the type of player the Cubs are looking for and while his numbers aren’t outstanding, the Cubs will gladly take them at the catching position.

Defensive outlook

All three catchers are converted infielders who move well.  Castillo and Navarro additionally have very strong throwing arms, though both are prone to making mistakes on the receiving end that mitigate their natural ability to some degree.  The Cubs were pleased with Castillo’s work and progress behind the plate last season and there is some thought he can be at least average when it comes to receiving and calling a game with plus ability to control the running game.  That would make him slightly above average overall.


Castillo is the unquestioned starter and while he’s not going to be Buster Posey, he’ll give the Cubs some power at the plate and a power arm behind it.  He has matured a lot over the last couple of years and the Cubs like his work ethic and mental makeup so, combined with his physical skills, there’s room for even more growth there.  Navarro is an upgrade over Clevenger in terms of experience and the ability to control a running game.  His ability to switch-hit is a rare commodity that gives the Cubs some flexibility with his playing time.

Depth/Is outside help needed?

The Cubs don’t really need help from the outside at catcher right now.  They have a strong trio and two of them are possible long term solutions.  Castillo looks like the starter for years to come and the Cubs added the experienced backup they needed in Navarro.  Clevenger gets the chance to regroup in AAA and get his swing back.  He tailed of badly after an injury interrupted his strong start.  Last year the Cubs traded Soto, then later lost both Castillo and Clevenger to injury, forcing them to turn to Koyie Hill yet again.  J.C. Boscan was signed to a minor league deal and he’s the emergency catcher.   Boscan is a good defender but won’t give you much on offense.


Most MLB ready: The Cubs most advanced prospect is Rafael Lopez, who could start in AA this year.  Lopez projects as a good catch and throw guy with some contact skills at the plate.  That skill set may give him a chance down the road to challenge Clevenger for the backup spot.

Top prospect: The Cubs top catching prospect is Wilson Contreras.  He’s another converted player who impressed me in instructs with his athleticism and quickness behind the plate.  He has a strong throwing arm and the potential for some power down the road.  He is a long way away, however.  He’ll start this next season in Kane County.


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    D-backs signed Ross. Gotsta believe one of Kubel, Parra or Upton is a goner.

  • I'm a Parra fan but Cubs seem to need a RH bat to complement DeJesus/Shierholtz. I think Parra hits lefties well enough to play full time, though.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Agree about Parra, just looked at his stats on d and it seems he plays right better than center. Cubs need a true defensive CFer.

  • Most OF'ers play better in the corners but Parra would be far and away the Cubs best CF defensively.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Who do you like for that OF spot? I could see Hairston platooning in RF with Schierholtz and Sappelt platooning with DeJesus in CF, but I am not sure Hairston is a realistic possibility, given all the teams interested in him and his interest in going back to the Mets.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Hairston's not a bad fit. The power is nice, defense is decent...not really an OBP guy.

    Thing is, I think the Cubs prefer an OF to play full time and preferably one who can play CF. DeJesus/Sappelt platoon in CF would be short defensively.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Oh, I thought they were looking for a platoon guy, not an everyday guy... Interesting... With Cody Ross gone, I wonder if a trade becomes a possibility, maybe for switch hitting Coco Crisp.

  • I'm thinking that Clevenger's injury had a lot to do with his offensive dropoff. I think he played hurt even after the DL stint. That, and the league was adjusting to his tendencies after his early success.
    I would like to see what he can do when fully healthy. I wouldn't decide to get rid of him, as some posters are saying, until we can see what he does with a full year of health, whether it's in AAA or in Wrigley.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Agreed. I think he'll hit, though not for power. My bigger concern is whether he can control the running game. I understand getting Navarro for now, but Clevenger is a nice fit as a backup long time.

  • Considering the amount of good catchers in this year's amateur draft, I'd like the club to look strongly at selecting one with their #2 pick.

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    In reply to SFToby:

    Not going to happen IMO,I think they keep adding pitching with their early picks. Appel if not taken by the "stros" will land as our 1st. pick.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    There are some interesting guys, though not many worth that 2nd pick will be on the board. It'd have to be a guy they really like, otherwise they may wait a round or two.

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    In reply to SFToby:

    #2 is too high. I do think the Cubs #1 priority besides pitching has to be catcher; we really have no organizational depth there.

    If Castillo establishes himself, we at least have some time to develop someone behind him.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I hear what you're saying, but I'd like to have someone better than we currently have to develop properly. Although I may be spoiled by watching Posey most of the time, but he shows how important a stud catcher can be.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    There's no Buster Posey in this draft. Players like that are rare.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm aware of that, but consider that Bench was picked 36th.

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    After looking at Contreras numbers, I'd say it looks promising,, but albeit he only has 39 games behind the plate. The Cubs and others must see things that the avg. fan can't,. It also speaks to drafting and signing legitimate catching prospects and not having to convert infielders or OF'ers to the position.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    While he did okay, with Contreras it's still more about projection than numbers and he showed glimpses of power. He's an athletic kid with good upside, but he's so raw right now -- as you said, just 39 games behind the plate, but he looked pretty quick coming out of his crouch in instructs. Natural skills are there, they need to be developed.

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    Nice article John,I'm eager to see the follow up articles when posted.Thank You.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    Thanks! I'll do one every morning (except the 24th and 25th) since the hot stove will cool off a bit. We'll keep an eye on the hot stove, of course, but I'm going to start out the day with this series.

  • john i read a tweet from john heyman and it said phillies gm amaro on top free agent OFs: "we feel like the demands are north of where we want to be.'' eying trades too.
    Could that mean the cubs are still talkjing to phillies about sori?

  • In reply to kingpro98:

    Could lead to that. Ross was expected to be the cheapest of the three OFers left. I think they're out on Swisher and Bourn, so they're options are now Soriano, Wells, and possibly an extra OF'er from AZ.

  • Castillo is going to be a good one, I really like his bat speed, and he is patient.
    Cody Ross is an 8 mil. a year player, and the Cubs can't find a taker for Sori at 5 mil a year? And the Mariners are all over 40 year old Ibanez. He will probably get 6 mil. Teams just don't want to give up any players anymore.

  • League still hasn't come around on Soriano and it wouldn't surprise me if he needs another good half year to get teams interested again. At least interested enough to give up player. If he was a FA looking for 2/10M, he'd have been gone a long time ago.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It is hard to identify a club that needs a righthanded power hitting left fielder more than our own.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Good point :) And its a big reason why Cubs will only trade him if it makes the team better long term. No reason to give him away.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed! Teams are in the planning and projecting mode right now and AS apparently doesn't project well for many teams right now. Reality will firmly retrench itself by the end of ST and into mid-season. If AS' first half the season is a repeat of last season and if (and when) the plans of other teams' flounder, I am confident the Cubs will find a motivated trade partner willing to deal.

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    I continue to like Chadd Krist as a sleeper. I know there are all sorts of asterisks next to his performance last year, but as long as he continues to hit, he's going to get promoted.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I was literally about to post the same thing, mike. His defense is already one of the best in the organization. How much longer does a guy like krist have to keep up his offensive production from last year until he is considered a legitimate catcher prospect?

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    In reply to elusivekarp:

    He has to do it against guys his own age. A real explanation for what we saw is he went from the super-competitive PAC 10 to playing against 19-year-olds with limited formal training. If he can make Tennessee next year and repeat the performance, his name will start coming up a lot more. But, since he's done nothing "wrong," I still like him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Sleeper maybe, but I don't think he's the closest to the big leagues or their top prospect, which was all I decided to list. Maybe I'll add sleepers in future installments.

    Not sure Krist will hit as he moves up, but it will be a pleasant, welcome surprise if he does.

  • He is young but Justin Marra's stats look promising. He only played 31 games at very low levels.

  • In reply to John57:

    Has a good bat with an excellent approach, but defense a question and I'm concerned a bit physically as he doesn't have an ideal baseball body. Doesn't look very athletic, even for a catcher. He'll have to hit to make it, in my opinion, and I'm always just a little wary of guys who have to rely on one tool. He may have the best pure bat of all their catching prospects, though, so he's worth keeping an eye on.

  • There was some discussion on the Cubs on MLB TV a day or two ago, and Soriano was mentioned. These supposedly expert commentators referred to Soriano as a good power hitter for some team (I don't remember who) but "keep him out of the outfield." So that is still the perception, even among those who supposedly know what they are talking about.

  • In reply to JayPea:

    Old perceptions die hard. I think many are still skeptical of Soriano's defense - and we saw some evidence of that when he wasn't even considered for a gold glove vs. LF'ers who, frankly, were considered on reputation alone.

  • I was watching that the other night. It was Larry Bowa, he said Soriano can really hit, but you just can't use him in the outfield. It is so irritating, these "experts" really don't watch the ball games.
    Soriano was head and shoulders in the field last year over Braun, who was nominated for a gold glove.
    But it gives me reassurance about the Cubs and Theo and Jed and their staff. They do their homework. Half of these teams are run by old school goofs like Bowa, who really don't know what they are doing.

  • Look, Sori really improved his defense, but I think it's more his obviously shredded knees than pure defensive ability that are the main concern. So I'd be shocked if any NL team gave up any top prospect for him.

    As for Castillo, if he stays healthy, I can see him being a real stud. Such quick hands. He'll be be much closer to 23 HRs than the 13 James projects.

    I can't wait for April 1st. And don't forget this guys: no one expected much in '84, 89 or '03. We're gonna surprise a lot of people this year.

    Yes sir!

  • Beef! I wasn't so sure about Castillo at first with him having a hard time framing pitches, but he's so good at throwing runners out and seems like the real deal as far as hitting ML pitching. (Though I think this year will tell us for sure.) Plus he's got that take-no-shit attitude I like to see in catchers and which can translate into a good game caller.

    Gotta like his approach at the plate too, really sees a lot of pitches and makes the pitcher work. I think our offensive "time of possession," so to speak, is as good an indicator as anything as to how we're coming along on offense. Those 4 hour 30 minute 9-inning Yankee-Red Sox games underscore that for me.

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