Cubs by position - Catcher
Going into the next few years, I was hoping to take a look at the team's options by position. I wanted to start with catcher. Please chime in with other ideas if you have them.
First I wanted to start with catcher. My view is that catcher is a position that should be relatively stable for the next 3 years or so. Here are some of the options in the system:
Major League Level: Geovanny Soto (age 27). Soto is under the control of the Cubs until 2013 when he will be 30. I don't know what you guys think but as good as Soto seems right now, he doesn't seem like the type of player who will age well past the age of 30. I think the Cubs should ride him out until he's 30 and then let him go. He's a seriously net positive for the team, especially when he's walking like Eddie Stanky. I also believe he's underrated by the organization defensively. He's pretty much an average player on defense.
Major League Level:Koyie Hill (age 31). I love backup catchers and Hill is a perfect one. He's gritty, he does pretty well with the glove. He can switch hit so he sucks with the bat from both sides of the plate. Thing is, he's played way too much this year. He's hitting .221/.259/.273. That's an OPS of .532. His OPS+ is just 39 (100 being average). He is awful and it wouldn't hurt the Cubs on the field if he is replaced. I see him as a future manager but my God, Lou! Stop playing this guy.
AAA: Wellington Castillo (age 23). Castillo feels like a pretty good backup to me. He's only 23 so he could get better but his overall minor league triple slash line is .259/.315/.404. He's been a generally decent defensive catcher in the minors and he's slugging over .500 this year in Triple A but he rarely walks and usually doesn't hit for much power either. He's ok. If the Cubs didn't have Soto, I could see Castillo being the Cubs place holder at this position. If the Cubs were in contention this year, he'd be awesome trade bait.
AA: Robinson Chirinos (age 26). Chirinos has been in the minor leagues now for 10 years and has yet to play above AA. I think that's about to change but his upside isn't even as high as Castillo who I could see being a possible starter in the majors. Chirinos is only a starter on a team that is terrible and has seen everything else fail at this position. He's a backup at best. He's hitting the crap out of the ball in Double A at .325/.399/.556 but don't be fooled. He's almost the same age as Soto and he's not an option.
High A: Michael Brenly (age 23). Brenly was a 36th round draft pick by the Cubs and he has turned into an organizational player. Of course, none of this is surprising considering his bloodlines but not being able to hit in the Florida State League at the age of 23 is a sign of a player with little or no future. Sorry Bob, your boy is a future high school baseball coach!
High A: Mark Reed (age 24). Reed was once a pretty decent prospect. He was a 3rd round draft pick back in 2004 so he has a pedigree but I'm not kidding when I say he is a worse hitter than Michael Brenly even though he's a year older and has even spent a little time in Double A. Reed has no chance to be a big leaguer.
Low A: Mario Mercedes (age 23). 854 plate appearances in the minors. 2 HR. Yeah. and he's not an especially good hitter for average either. He's a place holder.
Low A: Jonathon Mota (age 23): Yeah, also not really a prospect. He spent an entire year in AA and then got demoted back down to the Midwest league this year. Not good. Can't hit. Ok defensively. That's about it.
Short Season A: Jose Guevara (age 22). Yeah, he's also a non prospect who hasn't shown the ability to hit enough to get out of A ball. At 22, he's rather old for the Northwest League. Notice a trend. This is why I was hoping the Cubs would draft a catcher. They did, btw.
Rookie League: Sergio Burruel (age 18). Here's the first real prospect since Castillo on this list. Burruel was a 19th round draft pick and is interesting enough that he bears keeping an eye on. It's early in the AZL season but after 4 games he is hitting .467, so who knows?
2010 Draft: Micah Gibbs (age 21). Gibbs is a switch hitter who was one of the most highly sought after catchers out of college in 2010 draft and was the Cubs' third round draft pick. He hasn't played a game of professional baseball yet but it's not hard to imagine Gibbs being the man who replaces Soto in about 2014. Here is a good scouting report I found on the 5'11" Gibbs.
Conclusion: Thankfully, the Cubs have Geovany Soto because the rest of the system is bad shape at the position of catcher. Castillo is pretty good and should probably take Hill's place in 2011. Chirinos is another candidate to be the backup catcher in 2011 but will probably be the placeholder at Iowa. Burruel is very young and bears watching and Gibbs looks like he's already the best catching prospect in the organization.