MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Castillo merits grounds-Wel of ASG support

Castillo merits grounds-Wel of ASG support

There's nothing wrong with Buster Posey and certainly not Yadier Molina. They're what you'd want in a catcher, and they've got the World Series rings to prove it.

But they haven't cornered the market on productive play behind the plate. There are a lot of All-Star candidates in the National League, including the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy, the Pirates' Francisco Cervelli, the Nationals' Wilson Ramos and maybe even the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto.

• Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Castillo and other #ASGWorthy players

But before you cast your vote for any of those guys, take a moment to consider Welington Castillo. He deserves it for the work he's done since joining the D-backs last June, with a little extra credit for surviving a difficult end to his tenure with the Cubs.

A career .255 hitter, the 29-year-old Castillo is hitting .298. He set a personal mark with 19 home runs last season, and he already has seven in 121 at-bats, putting him on pace to hit 20-plus this season, maybe even challenging 30.

"The offense he provides is pretty special,'' said Arizona manager Chip Hale, who is hitting Castillo fifth, with even occasional starts in the cleanup spot. "But he gives us leadership, too. He's been good about that stuff. He's been a very, very big acquisition for us.''

Castillo is also doing good work behind the plate. He's thrown out 37.5 percent of attempted basestealers, which ranks fifth in the NL.

Castillo throws out Hosmer

What's not to like?

Castillo was cast aside by the Cubs, largely because he needed work as a pitch framer and receiver. They decided to trade for Miguel Montero, who had been an All-Star for Arizona in 2014, and signed David Ross as a free agent.

In his second season as the Cubs' primary catcher, Castillo's hitting regressed in 2014. But it was his pitch framing that was deemed inadequate.

According to totals compared by StatCorner, Castillo ranked 112th of 113 catchers in framing. Montero was first.

Castillo attacked the deficiency. He worked hard with Mike Borzello and other instructors before leaving the Cubs and improved to 48th among 117 catchers last season. He made a special trip to Arizona in January to spend time with D-backs coach Glenn Sherlock, and the latest numbers on StatCorner show that he's 28th among 76 guys so far this season.

"I've been working really hard, honestly,'' Castillo said in Spring Training. "If I get better, we're all going to be better. Our pitching staff, we'll get more calls so I want to get better. I don't want to stop working. That's the kind of person I am. I never want to start feeling, 'I'm good.' I want to get better and better.''

Castillo's second homer

While it was clear that Castillo wasn't long for the Cubs' organization, he remained on the Opening Day roster last season as one of three catchers. It was an awkward situation, but if he was unhappy about it, he never let anyone know it.

"I didn't know what they were going to do with me,'' Castillo said. "I just showed up to camp with the same attitude I've always had -- being happy and working hard. That's something that's never going to go away from me. I couldn't worry about what was happening. It was something I couldn't control. I just prepared like I was going to play every day.''

The Cubs had shopped Castillo since acquiring Montero and Ross, but it took them until May 19 to trade him. He initially went to the Mariners for Yoervis Medina, but then on to the D-backs two weeks later. That was a six-player deal headlined by Mark Trumbo going from Arizona to Seattle.

Hale said the D-backs targeted Castillo when he was with the Cubs, but the sides couldn't work out a deal.

"I know [general manager Dave Stewart] did a lot of work trying to make a deal for him,'' Hale said. "When he went to Seattle, we started working harder for it. He's a guy we had our eyes on for a long time. When [we got him], I think it changed our team a lot.''

There's no question Castillo has come into his own. He's raised his game to a level that would fit nicely into the NL clubhouse at the All-Star Game in San Diego.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.