Mar. 9, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Welington Castillo (53) during a spring training game against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE

Welington Castillo Called Up; Geovany Soto’s Future


Chicago Cubs’ fans have an opportunity to witness a glimpse of the team’s catcher of the future. Reports surfaced last night that Welington Castillo was going to be called up to the Major League level on Saturday prior to the Cubs game against the Philadelphia Phillies. With the news of Castillo’s call up surfacing, many were speculating on what the corresponding move would be for the Cubs. All the speculation circled around starting catcher Geovany Soto.

Soto is off to a sub-par start to the 2012 season. The Cubs’ catcher is hitting .135/.224/.250/474 on the season 52 at bats. In the past couple of weeks, rookie catcher Steve Clevenger has started to receive more and more opportunities as an everyday player. Clevenger is hitting .500/.522/.727/1.249 on the season in 22 at bats. With Clevenger off to a hot start, and Soto showing no signs of finding himself offensively; there was speculation on Friday night that Soto could be on the verge of being traded.

That speculation was warranted. Remember last weekend, the Cubs called outfielder Tony Campana as a pre-cursor to Marlon Byrd being traded. A trade involving Soto would follow the same pattern.

However, all the speculation ceased to come to fruition. Castillo has been called up to the Major League team, but Soto has not been traded. Instead, Clevenger was placed on the 15 day disabled list. Castillo was hitting .320/.435/.520/.955 with the Iowa Cubs in 50 at bats prior to being called up to the Major League level. Castillo will be thrown into the fire immediately. Geovany Soto is dealing with a lower back strain, and is not in the lineup for Saturday’s night game. Meaning, Castillo will be starting in Soto’s place.

The fact that Castillo is starting on the day he was called up is already a step forward from the previous regime. Remember last season when Soto was placed on the disabled list, Castillo was called up to the Major League level. But instead of giving an opportunity to Castillo, former Cubs’ manager Mike Quade opted in the favor of Koyie Hill while Castillo became familiar with the bench in the home dugout of Wrigley Field.

It is going to be interesting to see what type of opportunity Castillo receives. For instance, will manager Dale Sveum treat Castillo the same way he has treated Clevenger this season. Meaning if Soto shows no signs of improvement, will Sveum pencil Castillo’s name in the lineup rather than Soto’s. Sveum admitted in Spring Training that Castillo is the Cubs’ catcher of the future, and the first-year manager also admitted that Castillo is offensively ready for the Major League level. The only part of Castillo’s game that needed to be worked on was the catcher’s ability behind the plate. That could be the reason why Castillo rarely saw the starting lineup last season while he was with the Major League team in the 2011 season.

Nonetheless, this is a new season that features new regime, one in which holds their players to new level of accountability. That level of accountability was on display when the Cubs decided to trade center fielder Marlon Byrd, who at the time of the trade, had two hits on the season with the Cubs. Cubs’ president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, and vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod could potentially be faced with similar dilemma. It is not out of the question to think that Soto will continue to struggle, and if Sveum holds the catcher accountable, that should mean more chances for Castillo while Clevenger is injured.

If Castillo takes advantage of those chances and succeeds, would the Cubs front office still send Castillo down once Clevenger is eligible to come off the disabled list? It is likely that Epstein, Hoyer, and McLeod will consider every option before making that decision. While Castillo may not fully be ready for the Major League level, a combination of Castillo and Clevenger may be just what a Cubs’ team looking towards the long-term needs. Of course, under that scenario, the Cubs would first have to trade Soto. Soto’s value may not be too high in light of his start to the 2012 season. But, teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays could have interest in Soto. If Epstein, Hoyer, and McLeod feel Castillo and Clevenger are ready to be the catching duo for the Major League team; the front office wouldn’t refrain from trading Soto. That may be the best case scenario for the Cubs as they go through the season with long-term goggles.

Tags: Chicago Cubs Featured Geovany Soto Jason Mcleod Jed Hoyer Marlon Byrd Popular Steve Clevenger Theo Epstein Welington Castillo