Castillo's catching experience a welcome addition for rebuilding White Sox
The Chicago White Sox are all about player development.
Whether it's shortstop Tim Anderson, second baseman Yoan Moncada and starting pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez at the major-league level or outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert and starters Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen in the minors, the Sox are OK with taking some more lumps the next season or two, and they understand growing pains are a necessary part of the rebuilding process.
That doesn't mean veteran players are completely unwelcome.
With such a deep stable of promising young pitchers, the White Sox wisely decided they needed an experienced catcher to help them grow.
That's why they pounced on 30-year-old Welington Castillo, signing the free agent to a two-year, $15 million contract on Dec. 2. The deal also includes an $8 million club option for 2020.
Kevan Smith and Omar Narvaez split catching duties with the Sox, but their inexperience showed.
With Smith behind the plate, White Sox pitchers had a 4.84 ERA. With Narvaez, the ERA was 4.97.
The duo also combined to throw out just 20 of 128 attempted basestealers, a dismal 15.6 success rate.
Not only did Castillo bat .282 with 20 home runs and 53 RBI in 96 games with Baltimore last season, he led all major-league catchers with a 44.4 percent success rate (20 of 45) throwing out basestealers.
Equally important, the 5-foot-10, 220-pounder has caught 558 games over eight seasons with Cubs, Diamondbacks, Mariners and Orioles.
"A lot, a lot," Castillo said when asked about the value of experience. "I always take my job seriously, no matter if I have a young pitching staff or a veteran pitching staff. I always try to do my part. I always try to do my job, being a good teammate with them, trying to make them feel good when I'm catching and try to build a good relationship."
Castillo will be catching veterans like James Shields and Miguel Gonzalez this season, but he was brought in to help smooth out Giolito, Lopez and all of the other young arms working their way through the Sox's system.
"Just try to give them the confidence and give them more belief in themselves," Castillo said. "Make them believe that they're going to be here. They have the talent to convert it, but all that matters is how they're going to perform up here.
"They're going to have good days, bad days, so all that's going to matter is what's going to happen when they have a bad day. I believe in a lot of mental stuff, so for these young guys the mental part is going to be huge."
With Castillo in place, Smith and Navarez are battling for the backup catching job this spring.
Zack Collins, the White Sox's first-round draft pick in 2016, is the catcher of the future, but he still needs work.
"My numbers catching were pretty good last year," said Collins, who split 2017 between high Class A Winston-Salem and AA Birmingham. "I would like to do that again this year and keep improving."