Heading into the 2011 season, catcher is one of the last things that the Chicago Cubs will need to worry about, as long as Geovany Soto is lining up behind the dish.
Soto bounced back from a very poor sophomore season in 2010. After winning Rookie of the Year in 2008, Soto hit just .218 in 2009, with only 11 homers.
The 2010 season saw Soto bounce back from that sophomore slump, posting a .280 average and parking 17 big flies.
Much of his success in 2010 can be traced back to his work off the field last winter. Soto showed up to spring training in much better shape than he had been playing in '09. The addition of hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo also appeared to have a strong effect on Soto, as evident by his .280 average.
The biggest concern surrounding Soto is his health. While he was much better in the games he did appear in, the catcher from Puerto Rico still played in just 105 games, three more than that '09 campaign.
That concern relates directly to the shoulder that gave Soto problems over the summer, particularly in August and September. He had surgery to fix pain in his AC joint, but was expected to be completely healthy by the beginning of January.
Cubs fans should pray for health for Soto, given the options—or lack thereof—behind him.
Koyie Hill has proven to be one of the more frustrating players in a Cubs uniform over the past few seasons, despite the fact that there are minimal expectations from the former Arizona Diamondback.
Hill is entering his fifth season in the Chicago organization, after hitting just .214 last season. While Hill is a serviceable catcher off the bench, mostly due to his glove and his ability to work with the pitchers, his bat has rendered him nearly useless when he is in the lineup.
If Hill should falter, Welington Castillo appears to be the only other option for Chicago behind Soto. Castillo is just 23, but has very little experience at the big league level. He played in 69 games with Triple-A Iowa in '09, with 13 homers and 59 RBI. He recorded six hits in 21 at-bats with the Cubs, but is best known for the bat that seriously injured outfielder Tyler Colvin
Soto should once again prove to be one of the better backstops in the bigs in 2011, as long as he can stay on the field. If his health should become an issue again, the Cubs would be wise to seek an outside solution to back up Soto, offensively.