Cubs building depth in the system at the catcher position


It doesn’t seem that long ago that the discussions about the Chicago Cubs catching situation seemed dire. We had Welington Castillo, who seemed to be poised to be the team’s everyday backstop, but after that there were serious questions. We ended up with John Baker (one of the more awesome people you’ll ever meet), and Todd Whitesides as his backup. Not good.

But in typical fashion, the Cubs front office wasn’t sitting on their hands with the situation. As we enter 2015, there are some questions remaining, but the tone of them has changed. The one that everyone wants to know the answer to is “What about Castillo?”

While they made some additions this off-season, let’s go back a little bit further. The Cubs took Kyle Schwarber with the fourth overall pick in last years draft. Later, they took Mark Zagunis with the 78th overall (third round). They then snatched Victor Caratini from the Braves in the James Russell/Emilio Bonifacio trade.

Now, with the additions of Miguel Montero and David Ross, it’s possible the team could enter camp with three Major League ready catchers. That is still a point of drama that is yet to play out, but it’s still a fact. Chicago is blistering cold today, and the Cubs have three capable catchers.

When the Cubs took Schwarber, he wasn’t the consensus fourth pick, but they saw the potential in his bat and went for him anyway. In his first professional season, he reached High-A Daytona – moving through the lower tiers quickly. Across all three leagues, he hit .344 with 18 HR, 53 RBIs, 18 2Bs and only 57 strikeouts to 39 walks in 72 games.

He saw most of his playing time in the outfield, although this winter the Cubs have decided to give him the full opportunity to be an everyday catcher. The belief is for him to fast-track to Chicago, he’d be best to move to the outfield. But Schwarber is determined to be a catcher, and with his work ethic can make it happen. But the Cubs do have options as he is a talented player, and versatile enough to play the outfield effectively.

More from Chicago Cubs News

Zagunis played his college ball at Virginia Tech, and is a very versatile player. In 41 games in the field, he played 19 behind the plate, 16 in left and six in right field. he has surprising speed, as he was 16-for-18 in steals, and has a very good plate discipline. He struck out 42 times, while also walking the same in 262 plate appearances.

Adding Caratini was one of the benefits of being a seller at the trade deadline. The Braves have certain needs, and the Cubs were able to exploit that to get one of their organization’s top prospects. Caratini, 21, has shown a solid ability to get on-base and work counts. In 160 minor-league games, he’s posted a .371 on-base, drawing 79 walks and striking out 119 times.

He doesn’t have big power, but can hit the gaps. His 45 doubles and six homers are an example of that. Caratini hit .277 in A-ball, finishing up the year at Kane County. He, like the others have questions if they will eventually land behind the plate.

The Cubs have indeed built some promise into the catcher position in 2015. While it’s likely that Castillo will be traded before the season starts, we must remember that Montero and Ross aren’t spring chickens. They were brought in as veteran leaders, and will fulfill those roles. But for Montero, 32, and Ross, 38, they won’t be filling the roles long-term.

But the Cubs have set the wheels in motion on strengthening the backstop position, and will continue to pursue avenues to solidify it even more.

Next: Cubs' prospects have not always been a bright spot