BY: BMORECENTER (@BMORECENTER)
When the Orioles signed Welington Castillo to a two-year, $13 million deal in December, it was evident that he would be the starter and Caleb Joseph would remain the backup. As we pass the midpoint in the 2017 season, it may be time to reconsider. I know what you are thinking, Castillo is doing great! He’s hitting almost .280! I get that, but there comes a certain time where you have to reevaluate where value is coming from, and more value can come about from Joseph’s defense than Castillo’s bat.
Castillo is in Baltimore for his offense, offense that probably appears better than it really is based on the lousiness of Matt Wieters’ and Joseph’s bats in previous years. Castillo has a 95 wRC+ in 46 games this season, which is below Joseph's 101. Joseph won't hit over .290 all season, but the offensive improvement from an abysmal 2016 is notable. One sign of regression for Castillo, and Joseph for that matter, can be seen in their .336 BABIP and .385 BABIP, respectively. And both will inevitably slip down to a career mean. Even with what seems like upcoming regression for both, and due to given track records (Castillo's career 98 wRC+ opposed to Joseph's 72), Castillo is better offensively than Joseph.
On the defensive side, it is a completely different story. Castillo is a terrible defender. Absolutely horrendous behind the plate. It’s the reason why the analytically driven Diamondbacks non-tendered him this past winter. So far this season, Castillo ranks 54th among MLB catchers in Framing Runs Added with -2.2, meanwhile Joseph’s 6.9 ranks him fifth in the league. Joseph is an incredible defender, and with a pitching staff consisting of Ubaldo Jimenez, Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman, and Wade Miley, someone who can steal strikes might just lessen the damage. Also, pitch-framing aside, Castillo has recorded negative-4 Defensive Runs Saved this season, compared to Joseph's plus-5.
Castillo hits left-handed pitching very well, so maybe you slot him at DH vs lefties, but Joseph’s defense is far too valuable to leave on the bench all the time. Yeah, 2016 was very bad for Joseph. The no RBI season has been well documented. It was a terrible season, plagued by an injury to the worst place imaginable. A wRC+ of 6 is absolutely atrocious, but it’s becoming more evident that 2016 was an outlier. Both are below average hitters, but one is an elite defender and the other is very bad. For a team struggling to find any value on a roster filled with mediocrity, it is probably best to find and take advantage of any positive value, and Joseph has that.