You know me, and you know how I like to see the big picture of the system from a position to position basis. Today we begin our journey of taking a look at names to know in the system as we head into spring training and beyond. We all know that just about every player on the 25 man roster will come unto scrutiny sometime during the season. At least this series should provide you with the ammunition needed when you’re calling for someone’s head. If you’re gonna do it, at the very least know who to call for as a replacement.

We begin the series with a look at the catcher position. As a whole, it’s probably one of the weaker spots in the system. It doesn’t provide a lot of hope and insurance if Geo falters in 2010. Here are two names to know behind Soto and a few other notables with a smaller profile.

Note: All scouting quotes from the Baseball Prospect Book 2010 by John Sickels.

Geovany Soto
Year   Age  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2009    26 389 27 19  1 11  47  1 50 77 .218 .321 .381 .702   79

Expected Level: Major League Starter

How Acquired: 11th round draft pick (2001)

What the Scouts Say: "The key for Soto was losing 30 pounds after spring
training started, allowing him to maintain his bat speed and get to inside
fastballs better than he had in the past. Now that he has seen what it can
do for him, Soto must remain in top shape." (Baseball America - 2008)

My Comment: I’ve been critical and hard toward Soto because of his weight and dramatic slump in 2009. Baseball America saw it back in ’08 after a great year in 2007 and predicted it in advance. Hopefully the slimmed down, bleached tipped version of Soto will yield a return to the 2007 & 2008 season numbers and we’re not faced with the idea of a return of Rick Wilkins in the form of Soto. There’s a verse in the Bible that says “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”. I think that about sums my 2010 approach to Soto.

Wellington Castillo
Year   Age Lev  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2009    22  AA 339 27 16  0 11  39  1 15 71 .232 .275 .386 .661

Expected Level: AA Starter

How Acquired: Non-Drafted Free Agent

What the Scouts Say: "Castillo's best strength is his ability to throw out
baserunners, nailing 40% last year due to his strong throwing arm and quick
release. Offensively, he has good power in his bat, but his strike zone
judgment remains below average and he will have trouble hitting higher than
.240 against good pitching unless that improves."

My Comment: It’s hard to call Castillo a top prospect in our system, but he makes the handbook put out by John Sickels this year. I’m not sure what happened to him in 2009, but his numbers dropped dramatically in AA compared to what he did in the lower levels the years preceding. What alarms me the most is that it’s been three full seasons and in each, he’s seen his walks decrease. He just doesn’t seem to “get it” at the plate. At the very least, Castillo can be a good armed backup in the future that is inserted at times to either help pitchers who struggle managing the running game or when a team is a particularly speedy team. Unless his offense improves, it will be a struggle for him to see a Major League field in the near future.

Steve Clevenger
Year   Age    Lev  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2009    23 AAA-AA 340 33 16  4  1  36  4 25 39 .290 .344 .378 .722

Expected Level: AAA Starter

How Acquired: 7th round draft pick (2006)

What the Scouts Say: "He won't hit for power, and mediocre plate discipline means
his OBP is going to be very dependent on his batting average. It he can hit .300
in the Majors that's okay, but I think he's more of a .250-.260 hitter at the
major league level."

My Comment: Clevenger is a guy that I’m fond of in the system, primarily because of his work ethic. Most people wouldn’t just up and switch from being an infielder to being pounded with foul tips and being burdened with the most taxing job mentally and physically on the field. Clevenger has done that and is slowly developing into the making of a nice backup catcher / utility man. I like to compare him to a Brandon Inge type player, and I’ll take that guy on my team any day. Hopefully 2010 brings better strike zone knowledge and plate discipline to help him in his quest for the Majors.

Other Notable Names

  • Michael Brenly – Son of Bob Brenly and yet another weak hitting guy behind the plate in the system
  • Chris Robinson – Outside chance of making the roster as the backup catcher
  • Robinson Chirinos – Breakout year in the lower minors. Age could be an issue. 2010 is an important year for him.
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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