28-year old righty swinging Geovany Soto will be back as the Cubs’ starting catcher. Soto played in 105 games for the Cubs last season and he was 90 of 322 (.280 avg, .890 OPS) with 47 runs scored, 17 homers and 53 RBIs. It was a nice bounceback year for Soto after having a poor sophomore campaign in 2009. Soto will likely get back to cranking around 25 homers this season as long as he can stay healthy. Soto had 4 errors and 2 passed balls in 104 games behind the plate for the Cubs, which isn’t too bad. He threw out only 18 of 95 (18.9%) of runners trying to steal on him last season and Cubs’ pitchers had a 4.29 ERA with him behind the plate. Soto is one of the better all around catchers in the N.L. and I look for that to continue in 2011.
31-year old switch hitting Koyie Hill will likely be Soto’s backup once again in 2011. Hill played in 77 games for the Cubs last season and he was 46 of 215 (.214 avg, .552 OPS) with 18 runs scored, 1 homer, 17 RBIs and 1 stolen base. Hill is a hacker at the plate as he whiffed 61 times while only walking 12 times so don’t expect him to hit for a good average any time soon. Hill had 4 errors and 4 passed balls in 72 games behind the plate for the Cubs. Hill only threw out 5 of 45 (11.1%) runners trying to steal on him last season and Cubs’ pitchers had a 4.16 ERA with him behind the plate. Hill has the reputation of being a solid defensive catcher but I didn’t see that last season. He will be challenged for his job this spring by Welington Castillo and Max Ramirez.
23-year old righty swinging Welington Castillo is one of the better prospects the Cubs have. Castillo played in 69 games in AAA-ball last season and he was 61 of 239 (.255 avg, .815 OPS) with 35 runs scored, 13 homers and 59 RBIs. He also played in 7 games for the Cubs last season in which he was 6 of 20 (.300 avg, .983 OPS) with 3 runs scored, 1 homer and 5 RBIs. Castillo didn’t make any errors or have any passed balls in 5 games behind the dish for the Cubs. He also threw out 2 of 5 (40%) runners trying to steal on him and Cubs’ pitchers had a 4.30 ERA with him behind the plate. Castillo will be pushing Hill this spring.
26-year old righty swinging Max Ramirez is a former top prospect who hasn’t made his mark in the majors quite yet. Ramirez played in 28 games for the Rangers last season and he was 15 of 69 (.217 avg, .689 OPS) with 8 runs scored, 2 homers and 8 RBIs. Ramirez had 2 errors and 2 passed balls in only 26 games behind the dish for the Rangers last season. He was 4 of 29 (13.8%) throwing out runners trying to steal against him last season but Rangers’ pitchers had a 3.56 ERA when he was catching so they liked throwing to him.
PROJECTED GRADE FOR THE CUBS CATCHERS IN 2011: B+