Where’s the Beef: Is Welington Good Enough?

Welington Castillo is quite a curious case when examining the future of the Cubs as a perennial contender.  The main question I have is: will Castillo be good enough both offensively and defensively to be around when the ship is righted and the Cubs compete year in and year out?

Much of that will depend on the makeup of the team and how “right-handed” it remains.  In addition to the basic stats for this season, I chose to focus on the following metrics over the past two years (his main years as a starter) in an attempt to determine whether “Beef” is good enough:

  • Offensive stats:
    • ISO (isolated power)-this is shown just like a batting average, but it measures the raw power of a hitter
      • Average hitter=.145
    • wOBA (weighted on base average)-this captures all of the events on offense and gives a better sample than just AVG, OBP, SLUG, or OPS
      • Average hitter=.320
    • wRC+ (weighted runs created+)-is a total number that measures a player’s total offensive value by runs
      • Average hitter=100
  • Defensive stats:
    • DRS (defensive runs saved)-total number that measures the number of runs saved defensively by that player over an average player
      • Average score=0
    • rSB (stolen base runs saved)-this gives a picture of the impact a catcher has on the running game by either throwing runners out or by enticing them to not run in the first place.
      • Average score=0
    • RPP (passed pitch runs)-this stat shows the number above or below average a catcher is a blocking pitches in the dirt
      • Average score=0

Lets start with the basics: this year Castillo is slashing .239/.297/.393 with a career high in HR’s (13) and RBI (46).  He has dealt with a couple injuries and missed about 3 weeks in June with a lat/rib injury.  For the season, he walked 6.1% and K’d 24.5% of the time.

Looking at the two years of stats from above:

He has an ISO of .139 with a wOBA of .319 and wRC+ of exactly 100 in his time as the primary starting catcher.  Basically, he is right at or a little below average in all of these offensive value stats.  To put things in perspective, Evan Gattis’ ISO over the past two seasons is .236; all things being equal, Evan Gattis can’t hold Castillo’s chest protector on defense, but this gives you get an idea of what real power from the catcher’s position looks like.

Buster Posey, arguably the most offensively-complete catcher in baseball, led the way with a .361  wOBA over the past season and a wRC+ of 137.  Not to compare Castillo’s power to Gattis’ or his overall offensive game to Posey, it’s just to give a frame of reference for the best of the best.

Defense is really where Castillo earns his keep and he has not disappointed these past two seasons.  In 2013, his defensive stats were an amazing: 19 DRS, 4 rSB and an RPP of 3.1, all of which are above average. His DRS was off the chart high; for comparison’s sake, FanGraph’s says 15 or more is considered Gold Glove quality.

This season, his defensive stats are 5 DRS, 7 rSB and RPP of 1.2; obviously much lower than last season, but all three are still above average.  I do think Castillo’s defense fails to get nearly enough love from the national media even though he was in the discussion for a Golden Glove last season.

The stats show an average hitter with above-average ability on defense that will never be considered a big offensive threat (which is okay because no one really ever expected that anyway).  That said, I lean more towards giving Castillo another year to be the everyday guy behind the plate.

There are some intriguing options out there, starting with Russell Martin as a free agent and maybe someone like Miguel Montero via trade, but I don’t think Castillo has shown enough deficiency on offense to warrant moving on from him as the primary catcher.

To be honest, the Cubs really won’t need to worry about that much offense from their backstop when Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler are all mashing 40+HRs per season. That is guaranteed…right?  Oh, it isn’t…I see. Well, either way, the numbers tell us that Castillo is an average (at best) offensive player with a great glove.  For a catcher on a (hopefully) competitive team, that sounds good enough to me!


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