We ran this series earlier in the year and it seems fitting to run it again as we head into the free agency period. This is designed to let you know what we’ve got in the system at each position to help give us a big picture when evaluating potential moves. For example, you might look at a position a little differently if you knew we had a stud in AAA or even AA that could be ready to contribute at some point next year. We’ll start our series with the catcher position, where I highlighted the stats from nine guys in the system that had a decent amount of plate appearances. Here were the results, sorted by plate appearances.

1 Soto, Geovany 26 403 29 20 1 13 53 52 82 .222 .325 .399 .724
2 Brenly, Michael 22 374 36 18 0 5 38 20 56 .265 .306 .362 .668
3 Chirinos, Robinson 25 360 53 20 5 14 63 47 52 .309 .407 .548 .955
4 Castillo, Welington 22 355 28 16 0 12 41 17 76 .237 .282 .393 .676
5 *Clevenger, Steve 23 340 33 16 4 1 36 25 39 .290 .344 .378 .722
6 Robinson, Chris 25 331 37 22 3 2 48 13 44 .326 .345 .435 .781
7 #Hill, Koyie 30 284 26 12 2 2 24 27 78 .237 .312 .324 .636
8 *Reed, Mark 23 266 18 7 2 0 22 13 70 .181 .230 .226 .456
9 Flores, Luis 22 230 16 11 0 2 16 28 42 .179 .293 .268 .562

System Summary

Looking at the system, we see Geo and Hill as the major players for the big league team. Neither impressed with the bat, and you gotta wonder if perhaps the Cubs will decline the arbitration offer on Hill in an effort to see what they have with a guy like Steven Clevenger. He’s played well at each level he’s been at since being drafted in the 7th round in 2006 and could probably do as well if not better than Hill did offensively last year.

Robinson Chirinos is eligible to become a minor league free agent, so there is a chance he might leave for a chance to get a shot in the Majors after his good year with the bat. Chris Robinson, who is rule 5 draft eligible, would mean the Cubs would need to add him to the 40-man roster to protect him from being exposed. Either would be average options as a backup plan to Geo for 2010, assuming the Cubs would want to cut costs slightly at the position. Neither excite me all that much, but I’d rather roll the dice on one of them than give Hill a raise, which is mandatory if a player goes to arbitration if the Cubs feel Clevenger needs more time in AAA.

I was a dissappointed this year in what we saw from Wellington Castillo. The 22 year old was very good in AA last year and completely bombed at that level in 2009. Here are the numbers from 2008 over three levels and 2009 at AA.

2008 AA-A_adv-AAA 91 352 40 93 19 4 37 18 74 .287 .337 .383 .720
2009 AA 95 339 27 74 16 11 39 15 71 .232 .275 .386 .661

Comparing the two years we still see the low walk and high strikeout numbers, but the drop in BA, OBP and OPS as a whole concern me. We did see a slight increase in SLG, but only due to the surge of power we saw from in this year. Take that away or tone it down a little and we’d see a decrease across the board in those last stats. Arizona Phil over at the Cub Reporter had this to say about Castillo as he ranked him the # 5 prospect in the system (too high in my opinion, despite his hot finish to the year.)

Castillo’s defense has mostly been more projection than performance so far. He has a strong arm and is fairly athletic behind the plate, but too often he is careless and foolish with his throws and inconsistent with his receiving, resulting in a ton of errors and passed balls in 2008. However, he cut his passed balls in half and improved his fielding % this past season (both still need further upgrade, however), while leading all catchers in the Cubs organization with a 44% CS rate (he threw out 36% opposing base-stealers in ’08). Concentrating on improving his defense apparently affected his hitting in 2009, as he struggled at the plate pre-All-Star Break after hitting 287/337/383 at Daytona and Tennessee (combined) in 2008. But he caught-fire post-ASB at Tennessee, hitting 319/357/519 while clubbing 11 HR. He was assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox (AFL) post-2009 (he’s currently hitting 357/438/571 in the AFL), and will almost certainly get added to the Cubs 40-man roster later this month. Since he is only 22 years old and still somewhat raw, he could start the 2010 season back at AA Tennessee, especially if that’s where he would get the most playing-time. If Geovany Soto has another year in 2010 like he did in 2009, and if Castillo can build on his 2009 second-half at the plate and continue to improve his defense, he could be the Cubs #1 catcher by 2011. – (Source)

Overall System Grade: C –

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids and helps people protect their assets as an independent insurance agent. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail