Projecting the 2012 Cubs: Catchers

The past few years I've done posts for each player, but this year I'm going to do it by position. It's a little more than 9 weeks until the season starts so about one of these per week will get it done by the time the season starts. The starting catcher will be Geovany Soto and one of Welington Castillo or Steve Clevenger will be the primary back-up. I expect both back-ups to get some playing time and I'm guessing that's one position that will be determined in spring training by Dale Sveum. I've thought the back-up would be Castillo, but if I recall correctly, the projections might even favor Clevenger.

Soto had a fantastic rookie season in 2008 when he had a .371 wOBA. He followed that up with a .310 wOBA and bounced back to a .385 wOBA in 2010. He then reverted back last year and hit .316. That was close to a league average wOBA for what it's worth and he was worth 2.1 fWAR. Here are Soto's 2012 projections.

Soto PA HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Bill James 499 19 .252 .345 .450 .344
RotoChamp 497 18 .251 .344 .437 .342
Fans (27) 513 18 .259 .352 .437 .345
ZiPS 437 16 .244 .336 .429 .336
Oliver 466 16 .236 .327 .408 .324
CAIRO 399 14 .245 .337 .430 .337
Avg 469 17 .248 .340 .432 .338

Using a league average wOBA of .330, that's 2.5 WAR. He's been worth -13.3 runs on the bases in his career and -9.3 the last two. Let's add in a -4 runs baserunning projection lowering that 2.5 WAR to 2.1 WAR. He's probably about average in the field.

I was going to say that's really good offense for a catcher, but I'm kind of surprised how many good hitting catchers there were last season. Last season the following catchers had a wOBA higher than .338: Mike Napoli, Alex Avila, Miguel Montero, Carlos Santana, Yadier Molina, Brian McCann, Chris Iannetta, and Matt Wieters. The previous season Soto led all MLB catchers in wOBA. It seems he's really good one year and just average the next season.

The Cubs have two possible back-ups. The first of which is Welington Castillo and his available projections are shown below.

Castillo PA HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA
RotoChamp 159 15 .227 .270 .387 .287
ZiPS 377 12 .243 .294 .395 .299
Oliver 412 16 .231 .281 .404 .296
CAIRO 208 7 .248 .302 .411 .310
Avg 289 13 .237 .287 .399 .298

That's 0.5 WAR and it doesn't include defense or baserunning, which we don't know enough about yet. Steve Clevenger is the other potential back-up.

Clevenger PA HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA
ZiPS 454 4 .272 .322 .369 .308
Oliver 437 6 .265 .314 .380 .306
CAIRO 274 5 .273 .327 .397 .319
Avg 388 5 .270 .321 .382 .311

That's good for 1.2 WAR and like Castillo does not include defense or baserunning. Clevenger beats Castillo in each of the 3 similar projection systems. He's about 10 points of wOBA better in each of those 3. RotoChamp didn't have a projection for him and neither one were projected by Bill James or have enough Fans projections on Fanraphs.

Before you run and tell your grandma that the Cubs are projected to be 3.6 WAR behind the plate, those are only the playing time projections from each system. We need to come up with our own. Each position will get about 700 plate appearances. I think we can expect Soto to get 500, Clevenger 150 and Castillo 50.

Player PA HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA WAR
Soto 500 18 .248 .340 .432 .338 2.3
Clevenger 150 2 .270 .321 .382 .311 0.4
Castillo 50 2 .237 .287 .399 .298 0.1
Total 700 22 .252 .332 .419 .329 2.8

Not bad. It's entirely possible that Soto beats his projections and is worth considerably more than 2.3 WAR. I wouldn't bet on it, but we've seen how good he can be in even numbered years.

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