The Highs and Lows of the Cubs’ Catching Situation and Other Bullets

welington castilloThanks so much to those of you who’ve done some Amazon shopping since I mentioned BN’s new relationship with Amazon on Monday. I added a link up there to the left (“Support BN at Amazon”), which will take you straight to Amazon. The Wife told me that I should also let folks know that the easiest way to help out is to just change your Amazon bookmark to http://www.bleachernation.com/amazon – that link takes you directly to Amazon, but it tells Amazon that you came by way of BN. For those of you who regularly use Amazon anyway, it’s an easy way to support BN in the process while doing nothing differently whatsoever.

OK, on to Bullets …

  • Tony Andracki writes about Welington Castillo’s fantastic 2013 season, and his future as “the” Cubs catcher. Castillo is due for some regression with the bat, but if his defensive strides last year were legit (and especially if they continue), he’ll still be an above-average starter. I’m sure the Cubs are thrilled to have Castillo in place, but, man, any time I think about the catching situation going forward, I get itchy. I like George Kottaras as the back-up, but that’s truly it. The Cubs have scratched and clawed to pick up some depth pieces, and maybe Rafael Lopez emerges as a legit future back-up option. But … if Castillo gets serious hurt, or if his future is derailed for any reason, it’s a grim, grim situation long-term. The Cubs have Will Remillard (a well-liked college catcher drafted in 2013) and Mark Malave (a kid who just turned 19 and was moved (back) to catcher this year) to dream on, but there’s no obvious future starting-caliber catcher making his way up the ranks. Castillo is plenty young enough (26) to carry the Cubs through the wave of talent that could make them competitive as soon as 2015, but you’ve got to have more than one guy.
  • (The Cubs, by the way, are not alone in this struggle for quality catching depth – increasingly, the best hitting catching prospects are moving off of the position at younger ages to preserve their health and focus development attention on their bats. I wonder if banning home plate collisions will have a long-term impact on kids’ willingness to stay (and organizations’ willingness to keep them) at catcher.)
  • Jim Callis notes some interesting financial bits when it comes to the top 100 prospects in baseball – the Cubs have the two most expensive guys on the list (Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant), as well as two of the least expensive (Arismendy Alcantara and C.J. Edwards). Diamonds in the rough are great, and it still happens, but teams are clearly getting better and better at identifying top talent – the vast majority of the top 100 were big-ish money signings.
  • A number of former Cubs reflect on their time at, and memories of, Wrigley Field.
  • The Cubs are getting at least one ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Game. It’s against the Cardinals on May 4. ESPN loves the Cubs! Except then I see that the Cardinals have four ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Games through July 20, so clearly ESPN just wanted to get another Cardinals game on the schedule. Yet another reminder: when you’re good, people pay attention and give you opportunities to make more money.
  • Garrett Schlecht didn’t work out as an outfield prospect with the Cubs, so he’s been released, and now he’s a pitching prospect with the Rockies. Best of luck to him.
  • Everyone knows that free agent prices are going up, but as Dave Cameron notes as FanGraphs, the ascent in the last five years in particular has been unbelievable. It happened so fast.
  • Perhaps ZiPS really was high (relatively speaking) on the Cubs for 2014, and not just generous to everyone: if you want to see what hilariously bad projections look like, check out the Astros. Their rotation projects to be worth 1 WAR. One. Uno. A singular win above replacement level for the entire rotation. The bullpen is worth 0, and no position is worth more than 2 WAR (i.e., an average big league starter) except catcher (Jason Castro). Maybe that number one pick in 2015 isn’t a holy lock for the Cubs. The question here: I know the Astros are sticking to their plan (and, given the current CBA, I won’t criticize them for it), but at what point is MLB a little annoyed about Houston running away with the worst record in baseball for a fourth consecutive year? They lost 106 games in 2011, 107 in 2012, and 111 last year. That’s exceptional.
  • Beyond the Boxscore on K% and BB% – which is more important when it comes to pitcher success? No surprise, super low BB% and super high K% each make for a good pitcher. It appears that the high K% guys tend to be more valuable, overall, than the low BB% guys, but it’s pretty darn close.

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

127 responses to “The Highs and Lows of the Cubs’ Catching Situation and Other Bullets”

  1. Diamondrock

    I believe Koyie Hill is available.

    1. jp3

      Damn, you beat me to it. He does “call a good game” though.

      1. Diamondrock

        I knew somebody was going to say it. I figured it might as well be me.

        I was hoping that someone would toss in the “calls a good game,” so thanks for that!

        1. md8232

          Girardi could have been player / coach.

  2. Canadian Cubs Fan

    That surprises me a bit on high K% guys being (slightly) more valuable. They tend to throw a lot more pitches, leave games earlier, and tax the bullpen more…right? Shark, I’m looking at you.

    1. Edwin

      Not neccessarily. Walks drive pitch counts more than K’s.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/walks-strikeouts-and-pitch-counts/

    2. Edwin

      People made the same critisism of Rich Harden, but it wasn’t the K’s that drove his pitch count up, it was his BB%. That’s why it’s helpful to look at K/BB ratio, and also K%-BB%.

    3. Noah_I

      The strikeouts drive up pitch counts thing has been determined to be a myth. While strikeout pitchers may average more pitchers per batter, they face less batters than a pitcher with a similar walk rate who pitches to contact more.

  3. TimBeam

    Brett, what do you think the chances of signing Jason Hammel is?

  4. jcoffey89

    I order 2 or 3 books from Amazon a week, so from now on I will use the BN link. Not sure how much it will help, but it has to be more than what I am currently doing. Which is absolutely nothing.

  5. ChrisFChi

    That wife of yours is a smart cookie. I’ve since changed my amazon bookmark.

    I’ve been thinking about that lack of catching for a while now. Is it inconceivable that the Cubs maybe use a few later round picks (e.g. 4-7) and scoop up some young catching this draft? Granted our need is for pitching, but without reliable backstops for that pitching, I shudder at the thought of all those passed balls…

    1. D-Rock

      Changed my bookmark as well. Nice to know I can support BN while selfishly ordering things for me and my family. Well done, Brett!

  6. Jon

    If MLB were to be annoyed with the Astros, then they should be annoyed as well with the Cubs, as they are doing the same thing.

  7. brainiac

    congrats, that’s a huge promotion deal. just for the record a lot of us hate how the team is being run, but that’s not to be conflated with our love for the site.

    1. MichiganGoat

      Well that is good because I’d be worried if a person was coming on a page they hate to scream about a team they hate- at least we know there is something you love about the Cubs.

      1. D-Rock

        Jon admitted the other day that he was an A’s fan, so I have no idea why he keeps coming on here spouting negativity about the Cubs 24/7.

      2. Chad

        You should be worried because this is what Jon does every single time he posts here

      3. brainiac

        you can strongly support a team and a tradition, and not support an administration or investors. this is a simple fact of life. we’re not tasked with enjoying what we’re told.

  8. MichiganGoat

    When the DH comes to the NL the catcher will become the new pitcher, where the bat is not the focus it will be defense and game calling that will keep players at the position. We will see plenty of below average hitters still starting because teams are not keeping good bats at catcher. However if you have one you will be quite lucky and at a major advantage but if you have a Buster Posey you’ve got to be considering moving him but if you have NECK TATTOO Molina you are very lucky since his defense is as impressive as his bat.

    1. ChrisFChi

      Thou I’m against the DH, I agree goat.

      This is why I hope we can grab a few college catchers this draft. Give them some time to develop that defense. When we reach that point where we have top-tier pitching, we will have some catching in the wings ready to fill in if beef gets hurt/traded. Otherwise, looking at the depth, we might as well put a price of plywood up behind home plate.

      1. ssckelley

        It is not that simple, right now the catchers in the college ranks are not all that impressive. The top prospect at catcher is out of high school, Alex Jackson, someone that should be on the Cubs radar with the #4 pick. But he may not stick at catcher.

        1. MichiganGoat

          Precisely because if you can hit then teams don’t want you catching, lesser hitters with great defense will become the norm for catching.

        2. ChrisFChi

          I agree its not simple, as I suggested in my post above use some later round picks, grab one or two college guys and give them a few years to develop. Obviously its too early to see what kind of catching will be available in the draft. Addressing this need now will help alot in the long run. Like I said above, what good is it if we have stud pitching but catching that can’t catch a cold. (again I make this statement on the assumption that what would we do if beef gets severely hurt or traded)

      2. MichiganGoat

        It’s going to become a luxury few teams have and Koyie Hills will be common.

    2. Brocktoon

      AL catchers out OPSd their NL counterparts by 21 points last year

  9. chief

    Is it me or are we going to become a way too right handed batting team in the future?

    1. TWC

      “We just need to be a little more left-handed.”

  10. ssckelley

    Jeez, cannot even spell Remillard correct? :P

    But out of last years draft Cael Brockmeyer might be more polished. Tyler Alamo was another bonus baby taken out of the high school ranks.

    1. ced landrum

      I am glad you brought up Alamo because he is a decent prospect with good upside. He wasn’t really a bonus baby though. Everyone thought he would be a tough sign so there was an assumption he would be, but he only took a slot at $100,000. He was in BA top 500 in the high 300′s so it really was a good deal for the Cubs.

  11. cooter

    I read an article about Bronsen Arroyo yesterday and how peeved he is about the FA. I completely understand. I wouldn’t mind a durable arm in the rotation. What do you guys think he’s worth? And how much is he asking?

    1. TWC

      I’d give him a minor league deal if he promised to stop his country music act.

      1. CubFan Paul

        Exactly. Between the music, leg kick, & what my girlfriend calls unhealthy stringy hair (she thinks he needs better conditioner or something), I won’t no part in Arroyo.

    2. D-Rock

      If the price is right, I’d consider Arroyo. Very durable vet who could add stability to the rotation. Seems like a likeable guy too who would be a good clubhouse presence for the young players.

    3. Brocktoon

      I wonder if Arroyo holds a grudge against Theo for the way he kinda dicked him over when trading him to cincy (Arroyo signed a below market deal in arb[i think ] and boston promptly traded him away now that he was a more valuable piece. I mean it was 10 years ago so he’s probably over it but still.

  12. dAn

    Brett,

    Regarding the catching, what about Contreras? Do you think he has a shot at being an everyday guy down the road, or is that a pipe dream?

    And what do you know about Marra?–numbers don’t mean much in the low minors, but Marra owns an 877 OPS as a pro and also has done well in EXST (if memory serves…). He’s a LH bat, is very young, and was pretty accomplished as an amateur–but I don’t hear anything about him. What’s the deal there?

    1. ced landrum

      Contreras could be an everyday guy. He is a little like Castillo. Super athletic, bat ahead of catching skills. Cannon for an arm. he is at the least intriguing.

      Marra is also intriguing, but he needs to start moving. He has been a back up so far which doesn’t bode well for him.

  13. Senor Cub

    Catchers, it seems like an easy solution to me. Trade some of the 3rd basemen for a top of catching prospect.

  14. CubChymyst

    Shocked by the news about the Astros Rotation. Figured Feldmann would count for more WAR given last season.

  15. Napercal

    Other than Randy Hundley and Jody Davis, the Cubs have been looking for a catcher for the past 50 years.

  16. Fishin Phil

    Not a big Barry Foote fan? Tee, hee, hee

    1. Napercal

      LOL It reminds me of conversations my family has when we’re really bored: name the Bears quarterbacks, name the Cubs third basemen, name Cubs catchers

  17. MightyBear

    Astros will be better this year. They’ll be competitive in 2016.

    1. Jason P

      They added Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman to a 51-win team. The Astros are still going to be a good 7 or 8 wins worse than the Cubs.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        Moreover, the Astros lost only 5 more games than expected given their peripherals last year. The Cubs lost 10 more than expected given peripherals. The over/under on peripherals for Year X is a lousy predictor of the over/under on peripherals for Year X+1, which means that good old regression will take the Cubs further up than it will the Astros.

        The Astros really do have an awful team. The Cubs have about 7 or 8 holes in their Regulars + Starters: the Astros have at least 11 and maybe 12 (of 13 possible). That is really daunting rebuild: the holes they fix first will probably become holes again by the time they get halfway through rebuilding.

  18. MichaelD

    Am I the only one who gets tired of seeing the same match-ups on ESPN and FOX every year? I feel like you could make up their TV schedule by just following a simple algortithim. If the Red Sox and Yankees are playing then it is on. If not then the Giants and Dodgers. If not them the Cubs and Cardinals. If not them the Phillies and the Mets.

    I’m guessing this is what is best for ratings, but I would much rather see the Cubs play another team than the Cardinals, and there is close to 0% chance that I’ll watch another Red Sox-Yankees game.

  19. Javier Bryant

    If the lineup is supposed to be as good as it is in a few years, then having Castillo as your number 8 hitter wouldn’t be bad at all. I can see them taking a long look at Alex Jackson in the draft if they feel he can stay behind the plate.

    1. D-Rock

      if the Sox don’t take him at #3. Plus we are probably going pitching, pitching, and more pitching in this upcoming draft, unless a good value is there for hitting.

  20. Diehardthefirst

    As I said yesterday- Tidrow is waiting for the courtesy of a return call on Sandoval

    1. Jon

      Not that it matters, but should Brian Sabean be taking that call?

  21. Cornish Heat

    Dammit, Houston! I want the #1 pick! Stop sucking so much, and allow for other sucky teams to suck worse than you!!

    Jeeze…

  22. Edwin

    RE: Cubs/Astros,

    I guess it depends on where you want to draw the line. The Cubs have done a similar thing to the Astros, namely, making minimal attempts to improve the MLB talent of the club while focusing heavily on improving the farm system through the draft, trading mlb talent for prospects, and spending where possible in IFA. The Astro’s may have taken a much more extreme approach, but the Cubs haven’t done much more.

    Can’t the Astro’s play the “There weren’t any moves in FA that would have made them into a competative team anyway” card, even more so than the Cubs?

    1. Brocktoon

      The Astros can also play the we can’t afford to compete card much better than the cubs can

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