LotW: Catcher in the Corn


Now is the time for the Cubs front office to start making decisions, and now is the time for Cub prospects to make those decisions as hard as possible. Should the Cubs auction off as many veteran players as possible? Should they swap prospects who don’t fit into the long term picture in Chicago for players who do? Both? Neither?

Of course before the Cubs can make any of those decisions they need to know which players on both the major and minor league rosters they want to move. In some cases, this is easy. Matt Garza, Andrew Cashner, and Trey McNutt are going nowhere. In other cases, it gets more complicated. What about D.J. LeMahieu? Reed Johnson? Randy Wells? Sean Marshall? Tony Campana? Ryan Flaherty?

Geovany Soto?

Geo could be a hot commodity this trade deadline, and he has competition in the system. Any decision about the Cubs future at catcher has to factor in this week’s Line of the Week recipient.

If you’ve been paying attention to Iowa at all, this week’s award is as unsurprising as the plot of Titanic. Welington Castillo picks up his first Line of the Week, the second for Iowa, and the second to be collected by catcher in the Cubs system this season (though Steve Clevenger no doubt deserves one as well).

Castillo also picked up recognition as the Pacific Coast League Batter of the Week, and why not? All he did was build a 15 game hitting streak (that ended Monday). Just take a look at the numbers he put up on the road against first place Omaha and first place Albaquerque. In a four day span he piled up 10 hits, 3 home runs, 12 RBIs, and posted a cumulative OPS just under 2.000. For most players that qualifies as a fantastic week.

We’ve talked about Castillo before, both before the season and again during spring training. When the Cubs had to clear their minor league logjam at catcher this winter they opted to keep Castillo and trade Robinson Chirinos. Castillo responded by having a fantastic spring training that left many fans wanting him to come north with the Cubs as backup catcher. The Cubs opted, correctly in my opinion, to leave Castillo in the minors so he could play every day and continue to progress.

Now, welcome to Trade Deadline 2011.

Soto is a better hitter than he’s shown much of this season and does a nice job calling games. He finished 2010 among the top offensive catchers in all baseball, and he could yet elevate himself back to that level again this season. That makes him attractive to keep around, and attractive to trade. Soto might just fetch the highest return of any veteran on the Cubs roster today outside of Matt Garza and Carlos Marmol.

If the Cubs opt to keep Soto, Castillo would be a very good trading chip. Micah Gibbs, now with Peoria, is probably the next best catcher in the system, but lefty slugger Steve Clevenger could certainly fill in as backup behind Soto while the Cubs wait on Gibbs if they opt to trade Castillo.

So how do the Cubs play it? In the past Castillo has been strikeout prone, but since leaving Chicago and returning to Iowa he has slashed the strikeout to far below his career average. If that new-found patience is for real, Castillo could be a regular major league catcher. If not, he still projects as a quality backup. The Giants might pay well for either Soto or Castillo. So might the Brewers. Stay tuned.

Today, Welington Castillo picks up this week’s Cubbies Crib Minor League Line of the Week. Here’s hoping another 15 game hitting streak is right around the corner.