With the 2012 season finally over, Doug Padilla reviews the Cubs by position this week. Today he focuses on the catchers.
A young Chicago Cubs roster in 2012 was even greener when it came to the catching position.
Four different rookies caught 99 of the 162 games this past season, with the club finally phasing out of the Geovany Soto era.
After raising the bar with a nearly unanimous Rookie of the Year Award in 2008, Soto struggled to live up to the lofty standards he set for himself. The 2012 season was his most disappointing, though, as he missed some time with a knee injury and batted only .199 with 14 RBIs in the 176 at-bats when he was healthy.
Soto was dealt for minor-league right-hander Jake Brigham and the kids were left to guide the pitching staff.
Castillo, who didn't even make the Opening Day roster, made his biggest advancement this season with the way he worked behind the plate. The Cubs coaching staff was looking for one of their young catchers to stand up and be noticed, and Castillo emerged.
"He's definitely made probably the biggest progress of anybody on the team right now," manager Dale Sveum said toward the end of the season. "On a whole, the changes he's made on his defense, and calling a game and the preparation he's been going through, his whole attitude has changed dramatically into an everyday catcher's mindset right now. He's having a lot more fun understanding the progression he's had to go through."
It was Clevenger, though, who caught more innings than Castillo (412 2/3 to 404 2/3), while Cubs pitchers gave up less runs with him calling games (205 to 221). He did lag behind Castillo offensively, batting .201 with 16 runs scored and 16 RBIs in 199 at-bats, while Castillo posted .265/16/22 marks in 170 at-bats.
Overall, the Cubs' production from their catchers was minimal. They finished 14th in the National League with 51 combined RBIs and were 15th with a combined .616 OPS. That was to be expected from catchers that are so young and so unsettled.
While the age won't change all that much heading into next season, the sense of belonging will, especially if Castillo takes over as expected.
"Going into spring training, (Castillo) will feel like he's the everyday catcher," Sveum said. "No matter what we do, he's going to have that mentality that he's going to catch 120 games next year."
That mention of, "No matter what we do," would seem to suggest, though, that the Cubs could look to fortify the catching department with either a trade or moderate free-agent signing this offseason.
So despite the passing of the torch from Soto to the young up-and-comers, as well as Castillo's emergence, the position remains unsettled, but there are plenty of unsettled positions that remain as the front office continues to rebuild the roster.
THURSDAY: First base