When the White Sox play the Royals at Kansas City on March 28 in the season opener, Welington Castillo and James McCann are going to be their two catchers.
A year from now, don’t be surprised if they are both off the roster.
With Zack Collins and Seby Zavala ticketed for Triple-A Charlotte to start the upcoming season, Castillo and McCann are holding places until the two prospects are ready for the major leagues.
Collins, the Sox’s first-round draft pick (No. 10 overall) in 2016, has spent most of the past three seasons refining his defensive skills in the minor leagues.
“I would say I’m a totally different player now,” Collins said. “I think I’ve gotten a lot better in the couple of years I’ve been here, offensively and defensively. Obviously, I’ve been working on defense a lot because that’s been the weaker side of my game. But on both sides, I think I’m doing good, and I’m a different player now.”
One of the top collegiate hitters in the country when he was at Miami (Florida), Collins is batting .232 over 274 games in the Sox’s minor-league system.
That is a bit alarming, but the left-hander’s on-base percentage is a robust .379, and Collins led the Southern League with 101 walks last season while playing for Double-A Birmingham.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder also has shown good power with 40 home runs and 51 doubles.
While Collins spent the entire 2018 season with Birmingham, Zavala was promoted from Double-A to Charlotte in June. A 12th-round draft pick in 2015 out of San Diego State, Zavala combined to hit .257/.316/.417 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs last season.
Until they are ready, Castillo and McCann will catch for the Sox.
Signed to a two-year, $15 million contract before last season, Castillo was expected to help develop the Sox’s young pitching staff.
Castillo was doing his job before being hit with an 80-game suspension May 25 because of a positive performance-enhancing drugs test.
Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith handled the catching duties when Castillo was sitting out, but they have moved on.
Narvaez was traded to the Mariners for closer Alex Colome, and Smith was claimed by the Angels after being designated for assignment.
The Sox signed McCann to a one-year, $2.5 million contract in December.
In a career-high 118 games with the Tigers last season, he batted .220 with eight home runs and 39 RBIs.
“Just come in and help the young guys,” McCann said. “I have a specific expertise in as far as I’ve faced all these guys for the last five years, so I know the scouting reports, I know what we see as an opposing hitter. Now I’ll bring that to pitchers as well as the hitters, what I was able to see when I was facing them. At the end of the day, I’m here to win and help the team improve the culture that we started here.”