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.
- 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.
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.