Backup Catcher Battle Heating Up

Spring training is always a great stage for a competitive hard fought position battle, this year is no exception.  Enter Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo, the two men fighting tooth and nail for the backup catcher position.  Coming into the spring I knew that Geovany Soto’s backup was a position to be had for a number of candidates, I just didn’t think more than one guy would stand out.  Let’s meet the two men vying for the position.

Steve Clevenger (Bats: Left / Throws: Right) (6’0” – 195lb)

DOB – April 5, 1986 (25 years old)

Drafted – 2006 Amateur Draft (7th round – Cubs)

Last Year – Split time between AA and AAA, cup of coffee with the Big Club (4 at bats, thanks Quade)

2011 Stats (Minors)
.319 BA (398 AB’s) 8 HR, 54 RBI, .383 OBP, .475 SLG, .857 OPS – (44 BB, 46 SO)
.996 Fielding %, 23% Caught Stealing % (23/78)

2012 Spring Stats
.320 BA (25 AB’s) 2 HR, 5 RBI

My thoughts;
Clevenger is the type of player that The Epstein and Jed Hoyer obsess over.  Look at the BB/SO ratio, the guy puts the bat on the ball, and doesn’t chase too many bad pitches.  He isn’t a liability behind the plate, he knows how to call a game, and won’t make errors, only three all of last year.  While Clevenger won’t hit a ton of balls out, he has home run power, and a great doubles swing.

Welington Castillo (Bats: Right / Throws: Right) (5’10” – 210lb)

DOB – April 24, 1987 (24 years old)

Drafted – N/A; Signed by the Cubs as an amateur FA in 2004

Last Year – Played in the ARIZ Rookie League, High A Ball, and AAA.  Also had a brief stint with the Cubs getting 13 at bats (Thanks again Quade)

2011 Stats (Minors)
.287 BA (275 AB’s) 16 HR, 42 RBI, .359 OBP, .516 SLG, .876 OPS – (29 BB, 66 SO)
.985 Fielding %, 29% Caught Stealing % (16/40)

2012 Spring Stats
.346 BA (26 AB’s) 1 HR, 2 RBI

My thoughts;
Castillo has a rocket for an arm, and also has tremendous power at the plate.  His 2011 minor league numbers were downright gaudy, 16 HR’s in only 275 AB’s.  His defense is not too shabby either, the occasional error will creep up but he more than makes up for it with his tremendous arm, and ability to cut down would be base stealers, as evident by his 29% success rate last year.

 The Cubs are not going to keep three catchers on the active roster, unless one of the catchers can play a different position, that’s not going to happen.  If I had to make a prediction I would say that Clevenger has the advantage as we head into the final week and a half of camp.  He gives the Cubs a solid, contact making bat off the bench from the left side.  He has the ability to spell Soto for more than just a few games in a row if Geo gets hurt, which he has the last couple years and already this spring.  Clevenger also has the ability to give the Cubs a late inning extra base hit when needed.  I think the Cubs would like to give Castillo some real solid playing time at Iowa this year, but you never know.  Castillo, in my opinion projects to be the next in line to take the starting job from Soto, not this year, but sooner than later.  Regardless, the one thing the Cubs seem to have here is a tremendous amount of depth at the catcher position, which could go a long way towards the success of this team now and in the future.

Thanks for reading,
– George Cotugno

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