The Depth Chart: Catcher

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Cubs Catching Prospect, Willson Contreras

Welington Castillo seems to have come into his true form this year, especially of late. What’s probably the most surprising is the fact thathe has been taking more walks. 7 in his last 10 games in fact. He has an OBP of .354 through 91 games.  That ranks 16th best by a Cubs catcher dating back to 1950. Can you guess who’s right above him? Yes sir, another 2013 Cub catcher. Dioner Navarro ranks just ahead of Castillo at

15th best with an OBP of .357 through 65 games. That’s pretty impressive for Cubs catching this year.

Castillo is really starting to look like the Cubs future backstop. He’s improved his game calling and he has one heck of an arm. One aspect of his game I would like to see improve is his power. He’s only hit 4 homeruns this year. In 175 games at Iowa, across 4 seasons, he hit 34 homeruns. Obviously you don’t expect him to hit even close to that many in the majors but still more than what he has done thus far. I’m not concerned though. Say Castillo doesn’t pan out to be the Cubs future everyday catcher. Can they rely on anyone in their farm system to be an effective catcher at the major league level? Well why don’t we just take a look!

J.C. Boscan (AAA)

Age: 33    B/T: R/R

Taken by the Atlanta Braves as a amateur free agent in 1996, Boscan, has compiled only 11 games in the majors. He isn’t considered a catching prospect anymore. He’s an emergency call-up catcher if Castillo or Navarro get injured.  Over 17 seasons in the minors he has a .223/.308/. 305 slash along with 43 HRs. You might be able to guess he’s primarily a defensive catcher. He’s not going to even remotely wow you with his bat but he can play defense. With over 1000 games played in the minors he has a .990 fielding percentage. So at the very least you don’t have to worry about defense when he’s catching.

Luis Flores (AAA)

Age: 26    B/T: R/R

Flores was taken in the 7th round of the 2008 draft by the Cubs. In 6  seasons he  has combined for a .204/.304/.332 line from low-A to triple-A. He isn’t very big, only standing in at 5’10” and weighing 195 pounds. He’s done a good job on defense but you don’t expect him to do much with the bat. What you can expect out of him is probably about the same as Boscan. He won’t play much in the majors, and if he does it’s probably going to be because of another catcher’s injury.

Rafael Lopez (AA)

Age: 25    B/T: L/R

Lopez is even shorter than Flores at 5’9”. He was drafted in 2011 by the Cubs in the 16th round. He doesn’t project to be anything more than a backup catcher (Getting repetitive? Yea, tell me about it). He hits for virtually no power, (16 HR’s through 210 games) but he does seem to have a better bat than the other two I just talked about. Although he has shown more power this year.  He’s a career .282 BA with a .365 OBP. That’s not bad for a catching prospect. Not bad at all. Don’t expect him to be doing this in the majors. He’s batting .256 in double-A this season and with pitching only getting tougher as you move up the minors you can’t think he will produce at the plate like he did in the lower minors. I can see him making the move to Triple-A next season with the chance of playing in the show if an injury occurs.

Willson Contreras (Low-A)

Age: 21    B/T: R/R

This is Contreras’ first full season in the Cubs system. The last 2 years he played in Boise. He is a converted infielder, mainly 3rd base. At only 21, I believe Contreras has the best make up to have any kind of success if and when he reaches the majors. He’s athletic with a strong arm. He does need to learn to take more pitches. If he can do that he may be the Cubs best bet at a promising young catcher for the future. Actually Contreras’ numbers look similar to Castillo’s when he was in Peoria. Contreras has had more walks but also a lower batting average.  But there is always that young factor as I call it. Where a prospect is relatively new to professional baseball and there is more room for error in a player with a player that doesn’t have experience in the upper minors.

Tyler Alamo (ARIZ)

Age: 18    B/T: R/R

Tyler was taken in 24th round of this years draft. He only played a handful of games for the Arizona league. This guy is big! He stands 6’4” tall and weighs in at 200 pounds. Baseball America ranks the young catcher number 348 in their top 500  draft prospects. He needs to work on his defense and he has raw power. It’s hard to imagine someone his size not having power even if it is raw. He’s still has a while to go and that’s O.K. since he is only 18 years old. I’d watch out for this kid. I like him and I can see him opening some eyes in the next few years.

It’s plain and simple to see that the Cubs are quite thin in this position. There is always the possibility of a trade to acquire a catcher if Castillo doesn’t pan out like the Cubs hope.

Best Catching Prospect: Willson Contreras

Most Likely to Reach Majors First: Rafael Lopez

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