Results tagged ‘ Welington Castillo ’
(AP Photo/Micah Tapman)
Welington Castillo was a force both offensively and defensively for the Cubs this season. Despite the club’s poor record, his emergence as a Gold Glove-caliber backstop provided some hope for the Northsiders. His stellar ability behind the plate is something he’s worked hard at over the years and he’s gotten some help along the way. The following appears in the October issue of Vine Line.
When Welington Castillo arrived in the big leagues, he knew he needed to work on his defense. Now, thanks to a few adjustments and a lot of hard work, he could legitimately be a Gold Glover.
The Cubs brass has always thought highly of catcher Welington Castillo. Early on, the 26-year-old prospect-turned-starter showed the organization he had the ability to hit and the raw tools to develop into a strong defensive backstop. But there was something holding him back from truly reaching his potential behind the plate.
Prior to the 2012 season, the Cubs hired staff assistant Mike Borzello, a former minor league player and longtime bullpen catcher for the Yankees and Dodgers, to work with the organization’s catchers. His two years were a big factor in Castillo’s career trajectory changing for the better (manager Dale Sveum and the entire coaching staff were relieved of their duties on Sept. 30. It’s currently unknown if Borzello will return with a new manager).
“He’s been a blessing for me,” Castillo said. “He’s been helping me a lot. We go out to work on little things that sometimes I don’t feel comfortable with. He’s been really good to me. He’s been around a lot of good players, he knows what he’s doing, and I’m blessed to be around him.”
During his time with the Dodgers, Borzello helped turn Russell Martin (now with the Pirates) into one of the best defensive catchers in the game. He also spent nearly a dozen years with the Yankees, where he helped improve Jorge Posada’s defense enough to keep him behind the plate and allow New York to utilize his plus offensive skills in a position often occupied by easy outs.
Borzello said he looked at video of Cubs catchers throughout the system when he was hired, but focused particularly on Castillo because of how highly he was viewed throughout the organization. The coach immediately noticed some inefficiency in Castillo’s defensive approach.
“He was having trouble receiving certain pitches, especially to his left,” said Borzello prior to the season’s conclusion. “It was something that kind of alarmed me, and I thought we needed to make some changes. I approached him on it and thought we could change his setup. He was open to it and immediately admitted to some of what he thought were the weaknesses in his game, and they were similar to what I thought I had seen already. With him being open to it, we changed his setup, and we changed the way he holds his glove.”
The modifications required Castillo to alter the placement of his feet, which allowed him to receive pitches to his left easier, frame pitches better (leading to umpires calling more strikes for his pitchers), and create a more efficient exchange of the ball from glove to hand when attempting to throw out would-be base stealers.
Both Borzello and Castillo admitted it was a pretty major overhaul of his catching mechanics, but it was necessary to help the player reach his potential. While the changes may not be obvious to the average fan, they were quite impactful for a guy attempting to make the transition from top prospect to everyday major league catcher.
“He was open to it, we made these changes, and he seemed very comfortable with it,” Borzello said. “It took a little while to where it was second nature, but we got there. It’s like changing your swing. You’re comfortable a certain way, but you’re not getting the results you want. You’re not possibly maximizing your abilities, and I thought we could get more out of him with this change. And it worked.”
It would be hard to argue that point. Now, according to most defensive metrics, Castillo has not only become a legitimate major league catcher, he might also be deserving of 2013 Gold Glove consideration. Using Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) metric, Castillo has had the best defensive season for a catcher in the major leagues. As of mid-September, his 17 DRS was two better than Pittsburgh’s Russell Martin and six better than his defensive idol, St. Louis’ Yadier Molina.
Borzello emphasized that all the credit for the improvement goes to Castillo, who not only was open to the adjustments, but also worked on implementing the changes every day over the past two Spring Trainings as well as during the regular season.
Undoubtedly, Castillo still has room to grow. Throughout the year, pitchers like former Cub Matt Garza and current staff leader Jeff Samardzija have gone out of their way to praise veteran catcher Dioner Navarro, who served as Castillo’s backup this year. But it’s not something Castillo takes as a negative. He knows as he gets more playing time, he’ll continue to build a rapport with each pitcher on his staff.
“I think you never stop learning from this game,” Castillo said. “Something that made me better is just playing time. It makes you know and improve what you can do. You learn from game calling, knowing the situation. It’s hard, but the more you get to know [the pitchers], the more confidence you develop in your relationship. Then the pitcher knows what you’re doing behind the plate. You build a relationship, and you really know who’s on the mound.”
Borzello echoed Castillo’s sentiments that playing time is the key to becoming a complete, all-around catcher. He watched Navarro go through some of the same growing pains as a young player.
“You can’t rush the process,” Borzello said. “When Navarro came up with the Yankees, I was there as well, and his evolution over time has happened by trial and error. You learn from your mistakes, and you learn by dealing with different pitchers, different pitching coaches and just watching the game. Playing the game, you become a little more seasoned. It’s something you don’t just show up and know how to do. You don’t know how to run a Major League Baseball game behind the plate until you’ve experienced a number of games.
“Every staff is different, and every pitcher has different things about them you need to know. You need to know which guys need a pat on the back and who needs to be pushed. You can yell at some, and you have to hug others. You’re not only a catcher; you’re a psychologist. You have to befriend these guys, and they need to know you’re in their corner.”
Learning the ins and outs of an entire staff—especially a staff that has experienced as much turnover as the Cubs’—takes time, but Castillo already appears to be figuring things out.
“Sometimes it’s tough when you’re catching this and that from so many different guys,” said Samardzija, who just completed his second year in the rotation. “I like to do this, and other guys like to do different things. It’s hard to keep all those things straight. I think Wely has done a great job of separating what each starter likes to do, and obviously the bullpen is a whole other beast in itself. You’ve got to be able to control both ends for nine innings. He’s been durable for us, he’s been consistent, and he obviously cuts the running game down. All those things give you confidence when he’s in the lineup.”
Borzello pointed out that really getting to know opponents well isn’t an easy thing to do in the minors. In the lower levels, catchers don’t have access to the video and statistical breakdowns that are readily available to every big league club.
“Here, we have a plan that we’re trying to execute against on each hitter, and it’s [Castillo’s] job to know what that plan is going in,” Borzello said. “He does his work, he studies, he watches video, he cares, he puts in a lot of time. That’s something he’s improved on over the last two seasons.”
Castillo admitted he didn’t know where he’d be right now without Borzello’s guidance. From the overhaul in his mechanics to just pointing out the subtleties of the game while they’re sitting together in the dugout, Borzello has proven to be a major catalyst in Castillo’s development.
“He’s my teacher,” Castillo said. “I listen to him a lot. I ask him a lot of questions. We sit together and watch the game, and he’ll ask me about different game situations.”
This student-teacher relationship has clearly paid dividends. Former manager Dale Sveum is keenly aware Castillo is taking the necessary steps to become the elite catcher Borzello believes he can someday become.
“The things that have improved with Wely are the game management, the preparation, the pitch calling, and knowing the weaknesses of the hitters as well as anybody,” Sveum said prior to his dismissal. “He’s done a great job of that. Obviously his throwing and blocking are as good as anybody in the league. There’s no question about that.”
It was only a year ago Sveum was spouting off a laundry list of items Castillo needed to improve in regards to his defense. The fact that Sveum rightfully believes Castillo is among baseball’s best with the glove just goes to show how much the young backstop has accomplished in such a short time.
On the offensive end, the Sveum said he’d like to see Castillo come to the plate with a more consistent idea of what he wants to do. While the catcher’s power has yet to develop—he was slugging only .365 through mid-September—he has shown a dramatic improvement in his ability to get on base.
Through his first 49 games of 2013, Castillo posted a disappointing .294 on-base percentage with a measly 3.2 percent walk rate. In the next 57 games, he had a robust .401 OBP, improving his season OBP to a very respectable .351 with a strong 8.2 percent walk rate.
Borzello said when he came to the Cubs, he was well aware Castillo could hit, but that wasn’t his concern. He wasn’t brought in to make Castillo a batting champ. For most young catchers, the primary focus is on defense. Castillo came to the big leagues raw on that side of the ball, but hard work has helped him rank among the game’s elite behind the plate—so much so that Borzello believes outside of Yadier Molina, the recognized gold standard among catchers, you would be hard-pressed to find a better defensive catcher than Castillo.
“You are a coach on the field,” Borzello said. “You’re the one who makes trips to the mound to handle a guy and settle him down. Tell him, ‘This is what we need to do right here. Execute this pitch, and we’ll be fine.’ Whatever it is, every situation is different, and Wely is learning that. I think he’s well on his way to getting to where we need him to be when this team turns it around and becomes a contender.”
One of the most popular topics among sportswriters and fans for the last few years has been discussing which current Cubs belong as part of the team’s core. It’s quickly becoming clear that Castillo is doing the necessary work to have his name mentioned in that group and to hold a major role with the successful Cubs teams of the future.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs made starting pitching a priority this offseason, as evidenced by the addition of four experienced right-handers. However, the organization didn’t acquire an offensive version of Edwin Jackson—a headline name that will instantly bolster the lineup.
One potential reason they didn’t add a bat via free agency is that they’re banking on a hitter they already have in the system to step up this season. One likely spot for offensive improvement is at catcher, where 25-year-old Welington Castillo is primed to take over the starting job. Castillo showed in the second half of 2012 that he can compete at the major league level. He hit .265/.377/.418 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with five home runs in 170 at-bats last year, but much of that damage came after the All-Star break (.289/.353/.434, four home runs).
This offseason, the Cubs also brought in former All-Star catcher Dioner Navarro to both push the 25-year-old Castillo and give him some much-needed advice. Castillo will be batting fourth Thursday as the Cubs head to Camelback Ranch and take on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Chris Rusin, 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA on the spring, gets the start Thursday, and the Dodgers will send out lefty Chris Capuano. Cubs fans can listen to the game exclusively on Cubs.com. Here’s the Cubs’ lineup:
2B Darwin Barney
3B Brent Lillibridge
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Welington Castillo
CF Dave Sappelt
SS Luis Valbuena
LF Darnell McDonald
1B Brad Nelson
P Chris Rusin
Cubs Notes: Ian Stewart is scheduled to play in a minor league game Thursday. It marks his first game action since injuring his left quad on Feb. 21.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Baseball is finally back. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this past weekend, and Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is almost here.
To get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five categories—starting pitching, relief pitching, catchers, infielders and outfielders—to give fans a clearer picture of what to expect when the Cubs break camp and head to Chicago.
Below is a look at the catchers. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on Cubs.com to subscribe to the magazine.
After Geovany Soto was traded at the deadline last July, manager Dale Sveum gave equal playing time to catchers Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo. Though Clevenger won the backup job out of Spring Training, Castillo had earned the bulk of the starts by September, thanks to a strong presence with the bat (with both solid power and on-base skills) and what Sveum described as one of the best arms in baseball behind the plate.
Outside of throwing out would-be base stealers, Castillo does need to work on everything that comes with being an everyday backstop in the big leagues, including calling a good game and framing pitches. The pieces are there for Castillo to be an All-Star-caliber catcher, but it’s up to him and the coaching staff to put it all together and extract his full potential.
Dioner Navarro was signed to be Castillo’s backup and also act as veteran insurance in case Castillo fails to mature as hoped. Navarro’s signing all but assures Clevenger is left without a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster.
Welington Castillo had a solid season both behind and at the plate this season. (Photo by Stephen Green)
2012 Positions Played: C (100%)
2012 Batting (AVG/OBP/SLG): .265/.337/.418 in 190 PA
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 1.2
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Pre-Arbitration)
Welington Castillo is known for having some impressive tools, including pop in his bat and a cannon arm. Putting the offense and defense together has been the challenge during his developmental path.
And now, eight years after Castillo signed as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Republic, he received high praise for doing just that this season. In late September, Manager Dale Sveum said Castillo “made probably the biggest progress of anyone on the team right now.”
“On the whole, the changes he’s made on his defense, and calling a game and the preparation he’s been going through, his whole attitude has changed dramatically into an everyday catcher’s mindset right now,” Sveum told the media.
Castillo shows off a strong arm to throw out the Astros’ Tyler Greene on Aug. 14.
While the 2013 job is still open—and offseason moves could always change plans—Castillo made a strong case for the starting catcher job this year. Even after a late slump in the power department, his .265/.337/.418 slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) was more than adequate for the position. Catchers as a whole batted .247/.319/.399 in 2012, as compared to the (non-pitchers) major league rates of .259/.335/.423. No surprise there: Offense is scarce behind the plate outside of a couple superstars. Of catchers that had at least 200 plate appearances, the line was a slight bit better at .253/.326/.412.
Lowering his strikeout rate (26.8%) will be important to Castillo’s long-term success. Strikeouts aren’t all that bad in themselves, but approach is important to getting on and base and seeing good pitches to hit. Castillo had issues chasing pitches low and away from him this year, particularly from lefties. He did, however, walk 8.6 percent of plate appearances, higher than his 7.2 percent career rate in the minors and ranking behind just Luis Valbuena, David DeJesus and Bryan LaHair of active Cubs with at least 150 plate appearances this year.
Although Castillo also had big league stints in 2010 and 2011, he’s still in his first year of major league service time. He heads into next spring having the opportunity to solidify his role on the Cubs for years to come.
We’re only a week into the minor league season, but some young stars already are starting to blossom. A few of the Cubs affiliates are playing better than others, but there’s no denying some individuals left Spring Training ready to go.
High-profile corner infielders Josh Vitters and Anthony Rizzo have powered Triple-A Iowa to a 5-3 start. Vitters (.458/.500/.500) has racked up 11 hits in 24 at-bats, driving in six runs. Rizzo, who the Cubs acquired from the Padres for Andrew Cashner, has been just as impressive (.387/.424/.677), smacking three home runs and driving in 10.
Welington Castillo, a backstop who narrowly missed a spot on the Cubs Opening Day roster, is hitting .357 with a 1.214 OPS in 14 at-bats.
Top prospect Brett Jackson has recorded a .276 average with four RBI.
Ace Randy Wells is 1-0 in two starts, posting a 5.25 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and seven strikeouts.
Double-A Tennessee, resting at .500 with a 4-4 record, has plenty of bright spots in both the lineup and on the bump. Shortstop Elliot Soto has a .476 OBP and is slugging .500. Michael Burgess (.333/.417/.524) has a home run and 11 total bases.
Nicholas Struck (1-1, 2.25 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 15 K, 12 IP), Dallas Beeler (1.64 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 11 IP) and Trey McNutt (0.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8 K, 7.2 IP) have all been consistent members of the rotation early on.
Despite Daytona’s 1-6 record, a few individuals still have something to smile about. First-round pick Hayden Simpson has a 3.60 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP in two starts, and outfielder John Andreoli has a .429 average with a .600 OBP, drawing six walks in 20 total at-bats.
Pitching has been the key for Class-A affiliate Peoria. The Chiefs, who sit at 3-4, have gotten two solid outings each from Michael Jensen (2-0, 2.45 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 11 IP) and Patrick Francescon (0-1, 3.48 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 12 K, 10.1 IP).
Mesa, Ariz. — The Cubs are closer to finalizing their Opening Day roster after sending nine players to minor league camp Thursday, trimming their ranks from 40 players to 31.
Left-handed pitchers Scott Maine and Travis Wood, righty Randy Wells, outfielder Dave Sappelt and catcher Welington Castillo have all been optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Infielders Edgar Gonzalez and Matt Tolbert, righty Blake Parker and catcher Blake Lalli—all non-roster invitees—were assigned to minor league camp.
Manager Dale Sveum announced his Opening Day rotation will consist of Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm.
Wood and Wells were in the rotation mix heading into Spring Training, but were outpitched by Volstad and Samardzija. Wood struggled in Mesa, with a 17.28 ERA in 8.1 innings, surrendering 16 earned runs and three home runs. Wells, on the other hand, didn’t give up a run in his 7.1 spring innings, surrendering just four hits.
Castillo spent much of the spring battling Steve Clevenger for the backup catcher position. Though the 23-year-old Castillo hit .324 in 37 at-bats in the preseason, including a pair of home runs, the Cubs ultimately liked Clevenger’s lefty, line-drive bat and poise.
The roster, which needs to be cut down to 25 by next Thursday, currently sits at 16 pitchers, two catchers, seven infielders and six outfielders.
MESA, Ariz.–Cubs manager Dale Sveum has settled on a lineup for the first Cactus League game of the season against the Oakland A’s on Sunday, and Cubs fans might be surprised to see Alfonso Soriano back in the leadoff spot.
“He asked me a couple days ago what I thought about batting leadoff and I said, ‘I’m open,’” Soriano said. “My last time batting leadoff here was two, three years ago. I said to the manager, I’m open to any decision he makes.”
Tomorrow’s lineup will feature all of the projected Opening Day starters, minus catcher Geovany Soto, who is still nursing a groin injury. Welington Castillo, one of the many talented catchers battling for the backup job, will start in his place.The rest of the lineup will look like this:
P R. Lopez
MESA, Ariz.–Four more players moved into the round of 16 today in the Cubs bunting tournament, and the catchers are leading the way. Three backstops, Welington Castillo, Steve Clevenger and Blake Lalli, all advanced this week, and one may be becoming the prohibitive favorite. After knocking out Tony Campana in the first round, Clevenger continued to impress, ousting fierce competitor Bryan LaHair. The battle between Clevenger and LaHair was also a painful one, as both players were hit by a pitch from bullpen catcher Andy Lane. Pitchers Chris Rusin and Casey Coleman also advanced today.
While top outfield prospect Brett Jackson lost his battle with Castillo, he did manage the first 100-point bunt of the tournament. Players can score 100 points if they land a bunt in a small red circle on either side of the pitcher’s mound, but they have to “call their shot” first.
Bryan LaHair has torn up Triple-A pitching this season. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Starlin Castro isn’t the only player in the Cubs organization representing his team in an All-Star Game. (Though he’s the only one with two stolen bases in one, entering in the fifth inning as a pinch-runner.)
Between Chicago and the club’s top four minor league levels, 27 players were selected to All-Star teams. Vine Line’s August issue covers Cubs farmhand experiences, from personal and developmental perspectives, at the various midsummer events.
Wednesday night’s Triple-A All-Star Game [MLB Network, 8 p.m. CT] showcases three Iowa Cubs on the Pacific League team: Bryan LaHair, Welington Castillo and John Gaub.
Starting at first base, LaHair currently shares the league lead in homers (25) and has an impressive line of .349 AVG/.418 OBP/.681 SLG. The Cubs acquired him as a minor league free agent after the 2009 season.
Marlon Byrd talked on his blog, The Byrd’s Nest, about his first-hand experience with LaHair and Castillo during his rehab appearances.
“His [LaHair’s] numbers are phenomenal. At some point, hopefully he gets a chance to help the team, whether it’s here or somewhere,” Byrd said. “Welington Castillo is looking good back there and still learning.” (more…)
Post by Austin Hannon; photo by Stephen Green. Subscribe to Vine Line today.
Cubs fans have been hearing about catching prospect Welington Castillo’s toolset—including pop that could play at the big league level. But he may have reached another level a couple weeks ago.
On June 17, Castillo crushed a soaring homer that cleared Albuquerque’s 40-foot scoreboard, just the second time a player had cleared the giant structure in a game. According to an MiLB.com report, Castillo didn’t see where it had landed and couldn’t say if it was his longest ever—but teammates assured him it was indeed.
The June issue of Vine Line covered Castillo as one of the team’s three rising stars, along with shortstop Starlin Castro and five-tool center fielder Brett Jackson. The 24-year-old backstop has made great strides, owed partly to his willingness to learn in the game. Castillo has requested English-speaking roommates at every minor league level in order to sharpen his fluency and communication skills. (more…)