Is there a catcher controversy?

Share Button

“Tom (Downers Grove)

People are downplaying the importance of Navarro coming here and backing up Castillo. Am I the only one who thinks Navarro was a great pick up and could play his way into starting?

Bruce Levine

(1:35 PM)

No, you’re not–I’m convinced of the same possible result. During his media session on Monday, Cubs’ starter Matt Garza went on and on about Navarro’s skills as a catcher. At 28, he is hardly just a backup at this point of his career.”

http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/chicago/chat/_/id/47066

Just over a week ago I found this comment in Levine’s shortened chat session on February 12th.  The comment caught me by surprise because Dioner Navarro has not been a starter since 2009, and last year was the first time his OPS was above .600 since 2008.  Welington Castillo is far from the second coming of Buster Posey, but the numbers Navarro has put up should not be hard to eclipse.

To be perfectly honest I have never read Bruce Levine for his analysis on baseball decisions, but rather to hear what his contacts feed him for information.  I considered his analysis as on point as it was on the decision between Tony Campana and Dave Sappelt.  Levine commented on January 29th that:

“One of those guys — and I’m guessing it’s Sappelt — may be designated for assignment when they make a roster move to put Hairston on the 40-man. Campana is a guy you want to keep because he can help change games with his speed, and he gives you some protection if someone on the 25-man is injured.”

http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/chicago/chat/_/id/46895

Not to pat myself on the back too hard, but I called that well before that comment.  So it was easy for me to dismiss out of hand Levine’s comment.  That was until Anno tweeted this morning the Cubs intrasquad lineups:

 

 

 

The first thing I noticed, after wondering what the hell an “Intros quad” was, was the B team’s centerfielder in Dave Sappelt.  There had been some question about how much Sappelt could be trusted as a CF, but he has always made the most sense as a platoon mate for David DeJesus.  The fact that they are trotting him out in CF in the first game suggests that the Cubs will go with two platoons in the OF this season like I was hoping, but looking at the other team’s lineup I was caught off guard.

Now I know better than to read too much into the lineups in spring training, much less for the first intrasquad game.  But one thing jumped out right at me instantly.  If you had asked me yesterday to draw up the Cubs opening day lineup it would have been that with a pitcher instead of a DH.  The one change was the catcher spot.

I thought back to the comments Levine had made about Navarro and Castillo.  Then I started to think about Beef Castle in more detail.  Castillo has all the tools to be a solid big league catcher.  He is athletic enough behind the plate with a strong arm.  He will hit for some power which is something the lineup needs desperately.  However, it doesn’t take too much digging to find the weaknesses in Castillo’s game.  He has been below average in drawing walks for virtually his entire pro career which is a no no with the current regime.  His arm, while strong, is hardly accurate, and perhaps most damning of all is his reputation for being a poor framer of pitches.

Theo Epstein upon taking over the franchise made it a point to emphasize the organization’s focus on defense.  Measuring defense is the hardest thing to do, but great strides have been made recently.  Catcher defense is the latest nut to be cracked, but Mike Fast has just put forward an interesting article about the effects of catcher’s ability to frame pitches.  The article suggests that the catcher’s ability to get favorable calls over a long season can be staggering.  So perhaps Navarro does have something to offer with the reputation as a very good to excellent defensive catcher.

On the first day of games I already have more questions than I thought I would have all spring training.  I am left with two possibilities to consider today.  On the one hand I could have gravely underestimated Levine’s analysis abilities; or I could have been right in saying that one should not read too much into the first intrasquad rosters of spring training.  Either way this storyline has become the most interesting one to me outside of the battle for the final bullpen spot(s).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

*