Who's The Favorite To Back Up Geovany Soto?

By Randy Holt

One of the few actual battles, as far as positions go, this spring for the Cubs is the fight to see who will back up backstop Geovany Soto.

Despite some rumors that he could be traded over the winter, Soto returns for another season behind the dish on the North Side. His former backup, however, did not.

After spending five seasons with the organization, the Cubs opted not to bring Koyie Hill back and he defected to the rival St. Louis Cardinals. And there was much rejoicing.

No matter which of the backup candidates for 2012 actually wins that job, the Cubs are almost guaranteed to get a better bat off the bench, as Hill maintained a spot solely because of the fact that he worked well with the pitching staff.

It’s considered a three-man race for the spot, with a couple of young guys in Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo, as well as former Pittsburgh Pirate Jason Jaramillo.

Though none have much of anything as far as actual big league experience goes, Jaramillo has the most. He’s similar to Hill in that he can’t hit worth a lick and is only in camp on a minor league deal. He isn’t expected to be much more than catching depth in Iowa.

Ultimately, it’s expected to come down to one of Clevenger or Castillo.

We know Castillo can hit. He hit .286 in over 200 at-bats at the Triple A level, while adding 15 home runs. He also posted a .351 on-base percentage with the I-Cubs.

Castillo has long been figured as the Cubs’ replacement, should they decide to trade Soto, but it’s that type of talk that could land him back in Iowa. If the Cubs think he has a future as a starter, they could opt to play him everyday.

But don’t sleep on Clevenger, either. The 25-year-old has hit well at every single level, including a .407 average in almost 100 plate appearances with Iowa. He also doesn’t strike out very much. What Clevenger does bring to the lineup that Castillo does not, is just a bit of versatility. He’s no Gold Glove guy at the corners, but he’s capable of playing both if the Cubs needed him to fill in. Oh yeah, and he’s a lefty.

Ultimately, I think it will be Clevenger getting the backup job behind the dish. He has the advantage of being a lefty off of the bench and with many thinking that Castillo is a potential starter in the future, he’s better off shoring up his skills, offensively and defensively, down in Iowa. Jaramillo shouldn’t figure to be too much of a factor, either way.

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