Soto vs. Castillo

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This winter, someone will call Cubs GM Jim Hendry and in some form or fashion ask what it would take to trade for Geovany Soto. Young catchers who can both call a game and hit are fairly rare, and it is inevitable that some GM will do his due diligence and check in on Soto. We know the Cubs are likely to trade Robinson Chirinos before the offseason is over, so if by some strange twist of fate Soto did get moved, how would Castillo stack up as the new Cubs catcher? Just how good is Wellington Castillo?

Before I go any further with this, let me be clear that I have no knowledge of any rumors suggesting Soto is going to be traded. That move would quite frankly surprise me.

Lets consider Soto vs Castillo. In 2010, his first full season at Triple A Iowa, Castillo caught 39% of attempted steals and hit .255/.317/.498 in 69 games. The stolen base number is below his career average of 40%, and his slugging percentage jumped quite a bit to his career high. Not a bad season for Castillo, and he was rewarded with a September call up.

Geovany Soto’s first full season at Iowa was in 2005. In 91 games, Soto hit .253/.357/.342. While I don’t have Soto’s caught stealing percentage, his minor league average was only 28%. There is no way he was anywhere near Castillo’s 39%. Let me also add that in 2005 Soto was one year younger than Castillo was in 2010.

I actually find these numbers a little surprising. When we compare the two players on the closest thing to a level playing field I can statistically find, Castillo has about the same average but much more power and plays better defensively than Soto. In 91 games in 2005 Soto hit 4 home runs. In just 69 games in 2010, Castillo hit 13. Soto struck out 26% percent of the time, Castillo only 24%. Soto’s higher OBP is a result of him drawing more walks, which in turn is a result of Castillo being more aggressive in using his power. Despite that contrast, their strikeout rate is comparable and slightly in Castillo’s favor.

I was expecting Soto to be clearly better before I wrote this article, and that is just not the case. At this point in his career compared to Soto, Castillo is the better looking prospect by a fairly wide margin.

Castillo needs at least another full year in Iowa, I think, and his batting average really needs to come up. I have already seen enough to be comfortable giving him the the backup job in 2012 based on his defense numbers alone. Given time to improve his swing and approach at the plate, I think it is entirely possible that this time next year we will be talking about trading Soto and giving the starting job to Castillo.

As of now, Soto needs to be looking over his shoulder. His job is not as ironclad as I originally thought.