It's the second annual (holy shit, I've been blogging over a year) installment of Assume the Position! I don't plan on making many changes since last year, though I imagine I'll have to edit these a bit as the last few signings or so trickle in. The one thing I will do is just remove the players that aren't on the team this year (sometimes there were people that got in for some reason), and I'll had the relevant signings at the level I project them to break the team with. There are a LOT of NRI types that probably won't be in the organization when the season begins.
The MLB average wOBA for a catcher last year was .312.
Welington Castillo was great last year. He's quietly blossoming into a middle-of-the-order threat with the stick, and framing issues aside he's an average defensive catcher, maybe a tick above it. It's always a when, not if, for catchers to start moving off the position, but Castillo could easily spell Rizzo against lefties at 1B and let the very capable George Kottaras handle catching duties. Kottaras bats lefty, so that scenario isn't exactly flattering, but I imagine that protecting Castillo at the cost of exposing the Greek is a trade-off the Cubs will gladly make. I like Kottaras a good deal; he probably won't match Navarro's 2013 production, but a capable OBP in the mid 3's is more than fine with me.
Eli Whiteside and John Baker are the next guys up in case of injury/trade. They are both in the midnight of their careers, though once upon another time John Baker was quite useful. I hope to see neither of them in the majors this season. If Luis Flores is even on the team next year (I'm not sure, haven't heard anything – he's a 6-year minor league FA), he'd presumably go back to AAA, but he's got age on his side and absolutely nothing else.
Rafael Lopez had a nice season in 2013, slashing .247/.350/.392 as a 25 year old. That's a very acceptable line, and hopefully good enough to merit a promotion to starting at Iowa next season. The Cubs like him and extended the NRI this season. Chad Noble followed a putrid 2012 with a similarly pungent 2013. I'm sure he's a very nice person.
Chadd Krist, he of the 65 porn name tool, absolutely mashed in Daytona this year (.253/.351/.382). He'll look to grab the starts in Tennessee next season, and hopefully he keeps up that walk rate. Yaniel Cabezas was Chad Noble with less power.
Willson Contreras is a relatively exciting prospect. He's just 21, and he hit .248/.328/.423 in A ball last year. That's encouraging. He has 47% CS in 2012 and I said it was unsustainable; it was, and he nabbed 30% of would-be basestealers last year. He saw a little time at 1B and RF last season; I'm not sure if that's moving him off the position or just getting him in the lineup because the Cubs also like Carlos Escobar a good deal. Escobar was a 15th round pick in 2012 but backslid last season. He isn't great defensively and is likely to be left behind in this competition. He's also older than Contreras.
Lance Rymel's BABIP turned around and so did his fortunes. He was about league-average last year with the bat, but he's so old (24 this season) that he's got to move up or move out. Another 2012 draftee, his leash will be fairly long and I imagine he'll time-share with Contreras, but the clock is definitely ticking. Cael Brockmeyer was drafted in the 16th round last year and went immediately to Boise (he even saw to starts at Iowa in an emergency situation). He did well enough in Boise to merit a good amount of starts there next season, but he didn't have any power. At Cal-Bakersfield, he had a .450 slugging percentage, so hopefully 2014 brings a re-emergence in that aspect. In any case, he's a relatively patient hitter that doesn't strikeout all that often. I inordinately like Justin Marra a whole lot, and he did little to change that perception in 2013. He fought through a little injury, but came back and hit .224/.313/.482 in 96 PA at Boise last year. The 21-year old Canadian will probably be the primary DH in Kane County next year (at least I hope so).
Wilfredo Petit is a 4-year veteran of the Cubs organization but is just 21 now. He's never been even vaguely interesting with the bat, so I'm willing to just move on. Erick Castillo had 50 PA for the Cubs last year so that's basically worthless as well. Alberto Mineo had even less PA (60) than last year (62). The real person here is Tyler Alamo, the overslot 24th rounder from 2013. It was expected that he'd cost more than the $100,000 the Cubs ended giving to Tyler, but here we are. Alamo is a physical beast, an imposing 6'4" and 200 lbs. That's way too tall to imagine him playing catcher for all that long, so the bat will have to come. Alamo is only 19 and will likely split time between rookie league and Boise.