Spring training is quickly arriving with pitchers and catchers reporting to camp in less than a week. What makes this year a little more different than in years past, is the next wave of young stars are ready to emerge onto the scene. Two of those young players being catchers Seby Zavala and Zack Collins.
Although they aren’t quite yet ready to start their careers in the big leagues, Sox fans can expect to see one or potentially both up on the big league roster this year. Before we get ahead of ourselves, the Sox still have two proven veterans behind the plate in Welington Castillo and James McCann. As the year goes on, the depth chart could change depending on if the young kids can force Rick Hahn to promote them to Chicago, but as of now the depth chart is as follows.
Catcher’s Depth Chart
- Welington Castillo
- James McCann
If you’re wondering why Zavala and Collins aren’t currently on the depth chart it is because Rick Hahn has stated that both will start the year in Triple-A Charlotte.
With that being said, lets begin to breakdown what each catcher will bring to the team.
1) Welington Castillo
Sox fans have already had a year of the veteran backstop, or at least what seems like a year of him. About a quarter of the way through last season Beef (as a lot of south siders like to call him) tested positive for PED’s. Before that, Castillo was off to a hot start slashing .267/.309/.466. This was a pleasant change for fans as the White Sox had struggled finding a catcher since the departure of A.J. Pierzynski. After Castillo returned from his suspension, his numbers lowered back down a bit near his career averages with a line of .259/.304/.406 and finished with a .7 WAR.
What is pretty impressive about Welington are his career splits. Castillo straight up rakes against left-handed pitchers. He gets on base against them at an exceptional rate. Against lefty starters his OBP is .341 and .354 against relievers. And if there is one thing the White Sox need it’s to put people on base as they finished the 2018 season 26th out of the 30 clubs. However, he generates most of his home run balls against right-handers.
On the defensive side, Welington provides a strong backstop. Although his framing isn’t anything special, having a veteran catcher paired with a young staff helps set up long term success. He is 9th in active catchers for caught stealing percentage at 33.2% and caught stealing only 140 times throughout his career which is 16th active. But in two of the last three years, Castillo has finished in the top five under that category. A full year of Beef behind the plate throwing runners out will feel so much more refreshing than watching Kevan Smith try to get the ball over to second.
All in all, regardless of if Collins and or Zavala get promoted this year, a full season of Castillo is imminent. Which is a great thing as fantrax has him ranked 9th in overall catchers for this upcoming season. A full season from Castillo is key for the Sox if they wish to get better.
2019 Steamer projections according to Fangraphs: 79 G, .241 AVG, 12 2B, 12 HR, 39 RBI.
2) James McCann
Don’t get me wrong McCann is a fine catcher, but how nice would have Yasmani Grandal been? Anyways, McCann also brings the veteran effect over from the Detroit Tigers. He recently signed a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. If Zavala does come onto the scene the Sox might have to DFA McCann because I just can’t see three catchers on this team.
Digging into his stats, he is an up and down hitter from year to year, but has a career line of .240/.288/.366. This is nothing special, but this is what you get for $2.5 million dollars. McCann has only one season with an OBP of over .300 in his five year career which isn’t all that great. But for a second option McCann will do alright for the club.
Now onto the ugly. The ex-Tiger just isn’t a great defensive catcher. In that same fantrax article I mentioned above, McCann doesn’t even fall on the list of 36 catchers. Now I know you might be thinking this is just another ranking, but in 2017 he finished first in stolen bases allowed with 57. Not to mention his framing is awful, that’s where my hate towards Kevan Smith turns into love. That man could frame a pitch.
There really isn’t anything eye-popping when it comes to McCann. He will be a nice secondary option to Castillo until Zavala is ready for the show. I don’t hate the signing, but I am not in love with it either.
2019 Steamer projections according to Fangraphs: 40 G, .229 AVG, 6 2B, 4 HR, 16 RBI.
Down on The Farm
I have mentioned Seby Zavala and Zack Collins a lot in this post for good measure. Collins has been the most talked about being that he is the 8th rated prospect in our system. But what exactly can we look forward to?
There is this.
VIDEO: Zack Collins picked off a baserunner at 2nd base from his knees today. pic.twitter.com/Kxwg3vAkY5
— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) August 2, 2017
And there is this.
Want to see Zack Collins throw out a runner at 2nd base from his knees? pic.twitter.com/qlTjz8WgvY
— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) August 23, 2017
No, Ricky Renteria won’t put up with this, but lets just take a moment to enjoy the arm strength in this kid. On top of that, Collins has an unbelievable eye for the strike zone. Last season, he walked over 100 times in Double-A Birmingham. Insane. He also poses tremendous power but with that power comes strike outs as he finished last season with 158. If Collins can be more consistent at the plate he will truly be up there with the best of the league.
2019 Steamer projections according to Fangraphs: 3 G, 10 AB, .205 AVG, 2 BB, RBI.
Lastly there is Seby Zavala. Zavala does not get talked about enough. This kid is a gamer. He sits a year older than Collins at 25 and is currently ranked 22nd in the farm system. He is on a faster pace to the big leagues than his counter part and should be up sometime after the All-Star break. Zavala’s game is more offensively rounded than it is defensively and that is okay. He should be a 20+ homerun guy to go along with a .260ish average in the big leagues.
His arm has had questions and he doesn’t necessarily have the frame of a catcher. But he works with what he has and will have a solid major league career. There has actually been more talks of Collins possibly ending up at 1st base instead of catcher. Rick Hahn believes Zavala will mold into catcher 1b in the future.
2019 Steamer projections according to Fangraphs: 5 G, 17 AB, .229 AVG, 2B, HR, BB, 2 RBI.
Follow Anthony here on twitter.