Welington Castillo is Semi-Officially the Nominal Starting Catcher

welington castilloEven after the Chicago Cubs signed one of the better back-up catchers available in free agency, Welington Castillo was expected to be the “starting” catcher in 2013. With catchers, “starting” is often a nominal concept, given that the back-up receives so many starts because of the demanding physical nature of the job.

But some comment from manager Dale Sveum, and some zealous interpretation in the media, suggested there could be something of a competition behind the plate.

Not so. There’s no competition, but Castillo may not be starting quite as much as other catchers.

“Welington is the everyday catcher,” Sveum told the media, including ESPN. That is to say, Castillo is the starter. What that will mean as the season goes forward, however, is subject to necessary fluctuations.

“You’d like to see Welington start out his first year playing every day, catch right around 100 to 110 games,” Sveum said. “But that’s subject to change depending on his own production and how things are going.”

If Castillo catches just 100 games next year, and back-up Dioner Navarro gets 60 to 62, can you really call Castillo the “everyday catcher”? It doesn’t really matter to me, because I’d like to see that kind of split next year as Castillo eases his way into a full-time role. Ideally, your starting catcher would get 120 to 130 starts in a given season, assuming he’s considerably better than his back-up.

Right now, although Castillo’s offensive ceiling is much higher than Navarro’s, his overall game is unproven. His receiving skills came under fire repeatedly last year, and he battled some health issues. A conservative split that sees Navarro get more games than your typical back-up, then, is probably the right plan for 2013.

It’s worth noting that, although the projection systems out there don’t really love either catcher, they do project Castillo to be a bit better offensively than Navarro. ZIPS has Castillo at a .240/.312/.398 slash line, and Navarro at just .246/.308/.374. PECOTA likes Castillo quite a bit more than Navarro, with Castillo at .242/.314/.428 and Navarro at just .246/.305/.368.

Even a combination of those projections will be a huge improvement over the Cubs’ collective catching production last year. Geovany Soto hit an anemic .199/.284/.347 in 197 plate appearances, Steve Clevenger was somehow worse at .201/.260/.276 in his 215 plate appearances, and then there was Koyie Hill at .179/.179/.205 (that’s an OPS+ of 5 (yes, 5)) in his 39 plate appearances.

The Cubs’ third catcher will be Clevenger, who will head to AAA Iowa after Spring Training, and be the “everyday” catcher there.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

36 responses to “Welington Castillo is Semi-Officially the Nominal Starting Catcher”

  1. TWC

    “…and then there was Koyie Hill at .179/.179/.205 (that’s an OPS+ of 5 (yes, 5))…”

    You might say that Koyie Hill was a cut below all the other catchers the Cubs tried.

    A severe cut below.

    1. Ron

      “A severe cut below”
      From one who would know right?

      1. TWC

        Quite right, Ronaldo. Quite right.

    2. Cubbie Blues

      He just couldn’t get any wood on it.

    3. @cubsfantroy

      Koyie Hill was the Cubs best catcher since Jody Davis.

      1. Cubbie Blues

        That’s an insult to Damon Berryhill.

  2. Ron

    It will be interesting to see what Clevinger does, while he was certainly not that good pre injury last year. I dont think he is that terrible either. I think he may have rushed his rehab a bit.

    1. CubFan Paul

      “…while he was certainly not that good pre injury last year. I dont think he is that terrible either”

      Actually Clevenger was on fiya pre injury last year.

      I love his bat and versatility, he’ll be awesome insurance or a surprise..

  3. WGNstatic

    I am not naive about the Cubs’ chances for this year. But when you think about how bad, just really really putridly bad, the Cubs were at C and CF last season, and how they look to have made a major step up to “okay” at those positions, it becomes much easier to see how this team could be much more fun to watch this summer.

    1. KidCubbie

      Don’t forget about the black hole at 3B.

      1. WGNstatic

        I didn’t forget about 3B, but frankly that position wasn’t really improved in the offseason. I am as hopeful as anyone that the Cubs will get more production out of Stewart et al., but we will see.

      2. CubFan Paul

        Josh Vitters out the gate, for me if Stewart gets cut.

        The organization’s best hitting coach (Dale Favre) is on the Major League staff (along w/ Rowson &the new assistant).

        The same reason why BJax should start the year on the 25 man

        1. hansman1982

          Then what happens if they aren’t fully comfortable with their swings on Opening Day? You have them facing the toughest competition possible. Then they struggle and abondon the changes.

          This way you give them another month or two to feel comfortable and have success after flopping last summer.

          Also, if Jackson’s swing does fix everything, you gain an extra year of control by waiting until late-June.

          1. CubFan Paul

            Well, clearly if they aren’t ready they start in AAA. I’m assuming Stewart DFAd and the kids looking comfortable & playing well late in the Spring.

    2. hansman1982

      Then again, before the season last year we though the black holes would be LF and 3B.

      C and CF came out of nowhere. Maybe this year the opposite can happen?????

  4. Cubbie Blues

    Koyie Hill wRC+ at -6 for 2012. I didn’t know that was even possible.

    1. TWC

      So Koyie Hill created 106% fewer runs than league average.


      1. hansman1982

        But but but, the Cubs were like 97-8 in games he started. Combine that with Campana’s 92-4 record and you have one helluva team!

        1. cjdubbya

          You have won the “Comment Of The Day”. Well played.

          1. CubFan Paul

            Josh Vitters out the gate, for me if Stewart gets cut.

            The organization’s best hitting coach (Dale Favre) is on the Major League staff (along w/ Rowson &the new assistant).

            The same reason why BJax should start the year on the 25 man.

            1. CubFan Paul

              …not sure why this posted here

        2. cub2014

          ya when the cubs were at 15 wins 32 losses (campana
          started 19 of those games) that record was 10-9 so they
          were wait for it! 5-23 when he didnt start!!!!!

        3. cub2014

          cubs were 24 wins 48 losses on june 24th. campana
          started 35 games and the cubs were 18 wins and 17 losses
          so for whatever reason when they sucked they were
          .500 with him starting.

          1. Cubbie Blues

            But, what were they during Tuesdays when they started at 3:05?

      2. Cubbie Blues

        I know, right? But, that is what FanGraphs is showing.

  5. Saving Grace

    The Cubs history with catchers being developed hasn’t been very good recently.
    I think Theo should do whatever he can to go after Kevin Pawlecki of the Mets.
    Having D’arnaud now,Pawlecki becomes a nice trade chip for the Mets and a luxury.
    It is better to get him now before he becomes a legit big time prospect
    He fits the mold of what the new regime wants
    A very patient hitter who takes alot of pitches and never strikes out.He struck out just 8 times last yr and 29 in 638 career college at bats
    He projects to be a solid hitter with great plate discipline,power and a big bat
    Alot thing he could be an rbi machine
    He also is a strong defensive catcher
    I want to see Theo and company be aggressive with young high floor prospects
    This situation is perfect for Cubs to go after
    Sounds alot like Jason Varitek with a higher ceiling maybe

    1. dw8

      is this a prose poem about Kevin Pawlecki?

      1. pj

        Theo disapproves of Joycean scouting reports.

        Minor side issues: Plawecki, not Pawlecki. Also, strikeout total is wrong for last year.

      2. Saving Grace

        Sorry I transposed the letters
        Strike out total is for last yr and career in college not in minors
        In the minors which you’re referring to I think he struck out 24 times and walked 25 in 61 games and 216 abs with a .345 obp
        He is a model of what Theo and his staff are looking for
        He looks to be a legitimate prospect
        I like him and in 2 to 3 years we’ll see if I ‘m right on him
        I see a power hitting contact patient hitter with strong defense
        Theo’s a money all decouple and plawecki fits that

        1. Saving Grace

          That’s moneyball deciple
          Damn iPad keeps changing words I type

  6. Farley Flash

    Trade Sory and Marmol to the Yanks for their top prospect a catcher

  7. KidCubbie

    We could wish but the Yanks need to stay under the salary cap and trading those two would not help them. Plus I’m not sure they want or need Marmol.

  8. DB Kyle

    So if Jackson could win the CF job, we’d have an entire up-the-middle that’s homegrown, along with our likely Opening Day starter. Not even counting Rizzo, is that enough that we can finally stop hearing that the Cubs haven’t gone homegrowny enough?

    1. CubFan Paul

      I’m pounding the drum for BJax to win the CF job. No one can convince me Sveum prefers DeJesus over BJax.

  9. Farley Flash

    As much as I would like to see BJack make the opening day start (tired of waiting 47 yrs. old). I see some real talent in the lower minors so there is no reason to push. Let him tear up Des Moines, from Iowa, here, about the same drive to Chic. With the 2nd pick in the draft and that means early round two pick as well, lets stock up. In a couple of years we can be in a position to say lets win.

  10. Texas Toast

    Does nobody do their research? The Cub’s farm system has some great catching prospects in the pipeline, Noble seems to be doing the best down in Daytona as far as hitting goes