Editor’s Note: This is a guest post, written by a friend of the program, Scarey from Sons of Ivy. When it comes to Cubs prospects, few know the organization better than Scarey, and he’s offered to throw us some of his insights, teed up here for you with minimal editing from yours truly. Up today, three catchers in the Cubs’ system, offered in honor of Welington Castillo’s recent call-up. Enjoy.
The Cubs currently have a plethora of MLB-ready catching prospects in their system. It’s questionable whether any of them are capable of being full-time starters, but they do make signing Koyie Hill to another major league contract unnecessary. The Cubs should be looking to move one of the three prospects up to be Geovany Soto’s backup, and each of them is an intriguing option.
Castillo has two impressive attributes: a strong throwing arm and plus power. The Cubs have always liked his arm, which has managed a 40% caught stealing rate throughout his minor league career. Reports also highlight his excellent footwork. Unfortunatley, his recieving skills seem to be holding him back. He’s been described as an average defensive catcher at best, but his other tool – power – makes him an attractive option. Welington broke out during his 2007 season at Peoria where he belted 11 homers in a little more than 350 plate appearances. The Cubs put him on the fast track to AAA, but Castillo struggled at the plate along the way. The numbers weren’t too concerning considering he was generally at a high level for his age.
Castillo started this year at AAA Iowa and has piled up the power numbers to the tune of 13 HRs and 17 doubles in just 250(!) plate appearances. He figures to be a prime candidate for a call up when rosters expand since he’s currently at AAA, and is on the 40 man roster unlike Clevenger and Chirinos [ed. - obviously this was written before Castillo was called up to take Geovany Soto's spot when he hit the DL last night].
Clevenger is a very interesting catching prospect. He is actually a converted infielder and has played everywhere besides the outfield spots. Perhaps the most unusual aspect of Clevenger is that he hits left handed, which is fairly rare for a catcher. He’s a very good defender behind the plate, but with just an average throwing arm.
Clevenger is known for being a contact guy with average discipline. He has a 129/148 K/BB ratio in his four years with the Cubs. He has virtually no power and possesses better than average speed on the base paths, which yields comparisons to Jason Kendell. He happens to have the unusual distinction, much like Kendell, of getting plunked often. He’s been hit almost 11 times per year in the minors.
Clevenger is the least likely to be Koyie Hill’s heir, however. He is not a member of the 40 man roster and has done little to stand out this season.
Chirinos is a personal favorite of mine. He is a reminder (at least to me) that you can’t judge a prospect simply by his age. While he’s not incredibly old at 26, he’s been in the Cubs system for almost 10 years. Chirinos has always been very good at taking a walk, and recently developed a power stroke, which has gotten progressively better. His slugging percentages over the last three years are .441, .519, and .583. Add to that the fact that he was rated by Baseball America as the best defensive catcher in the system the last two years – after converting only three years ago from an infielder – and you’ve got a heck of an interesting prospect.
For the the native Venezuelan, 2011 may be his last chance to make a big league squad. After a prospect turns 27 years old, the excuses for not making the big league club tend to get old. If the Cubs can open up a 40 man roster spot for Chirinos, he may be the better option as Soto’s backup, if for no other reason than it would allow the younger and higher potential Castillo to have at least one more year to refine his game in AAA.