The success of the Chicago Cubs isn’t going to fall on one player. But an integral part of the process will involve Cubs’ catcher Welington Castillo. While he’s still young, being a leader and earning the trust of the pitching staff will go a long way to bringing the Cubs back to a contender.
Castillo is in his fifth season on the big league club (10 with the organization), but only his second as the everyday catcher. And last season, while most talk was of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, Castillo quietly put together a solid season at the plate as well as behind it.
“I just started to get more comfortable,” Castillo said. “I felt like: ‘Hey, I belong here.’ Facing the same guys, the same teams, I know how they’re going to pitch me.“I just simplified everything: ‘Don’t try to think. Don’t try to do (too much). You’ve been doing this for your whole life. This is your time. Just try to show them what you got.’” (h/t Patrick Mooney, Cubs Insider)
Last season at the plate, Castillo hit .274 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs. And while he got off to a slow start this season, he seems to be finding his stride again at the plate. A three-run blast to beat the rival Cardinals in extra innings probably didn’t hurt his confidence.
The Cubs have a lot of young players on this team. Last year before being traded to the Yankees, the Cubs could sort of count on Alfonso Soriano to be the production guy. Now, as the struggles continue as a team to score runs, someone is going to have to be the next man up. But it’s behind the plate where it seems he has come along the most.
Last season Castillo was among the league leaders in assists, passed balls, range factor, and fielding %. And he led all big-league catchers with a 2.8 WAR. Although the voting for the Rawlings® are not released, it’s hard to believe that Castillo was not at least brought up in the voting. He also nabbed 29% of would-be base stealers. But his biggest strides have come with his communication with the pitchers.
As Castillo told Cubs Insider Patrick Mooney, “They see the work that I do,” Castillo said. “That’s how you get the respect from everybody. It’s something that I can never stop doing, because I have to learn from any mistake and keep working hard and study all the hitters to get the results from pitchers. Make them feel comfortable with me.
“They know I know what I’m doing behind the plate, because they saw me spend a lot of time in the video room on scouting reports. This year will be like way easier than last year.”
The grind of a 162 game schedule for a catcher is not an easy one, but Castillo continues to put in the work to be successful, and it’s not being overlooked.
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