The 2018 expectations for the White Sox catchers did not quite go as planned as one was suspended, one was called up, and one did better than expected.
Even though the White Sox catchers were not big home run hitters, as a whole, they did well offensively and defensively.
Three men filled the catching position throughout the season: Welington Castillo, Kevan Smith, and Omar Narvaez. Castillo was signed in the 2018 off-season and began the season as the everyday catcher. Then, on May 24, he was suspended for PED violations and did not return to the team until September.
This meant that the main catcher responsibilities went to Omar Narvaez, who was originally the back-up catcher. His backup catcher became Kevan Smith, who started the season in Triple-A Charlotte.
By the time the season was over, the three catchers all finished with positive WAR numbers. The biggest surprise was Narvaez, who had his best season at the plate catching in 97 games and 653.1 innings. He batted a very respectable .275/.366/.429 with 14 doubles, one triple, and nine home runs. All of his numbers, except his batting average and walks, were career highs. He had 30 RBI and 65 strikeouts. His OPS+ was 120, up from 97 in 2017.
During his time with the team, Welington Castillo also had good numbers. Sadly, he was only in 49 games and 354.1 innings. After posting his best offensive season in 2017, he did not disappoint in 2018 with a slash of .259/.304/.406. His OPS+ in 2018 was 95, down from 117 in 2017 when he was with the Orioles. In his first season with the Sox, Castillo hit seven doubles and six home runs. He had 15 RBI, nine walks, and 46 strikeouts.
Along with Narvaez, Kevan Smith had a surprisingly successful season at the plate. He played in 52 games and batted .292/.348/.380. He may not have had as many extra-base hits as Narvaez and Castillo, but the 30-year-old back-up catcher got on base frequently. His OPS+ was 103.
Even though the catchers weren’t big power hitters and none of them qualified for batting titles, they were one of the most consistent offensively. In fact, Smith and Narvaez had the best batting averages and OBP of the Sox players who were in 50 or more games.
When compared to other AL catchers offensively, Smith had the second highest batting average of catchers who started in 50 or more games, behind only Wilson Ramos of the Rays. Narvaez was in third. Narvaez had the 10th most home runs of AL catchers; Salvador Perez of the Royals was in first with 27. Narvaez was 11th in doubles; Yan Gomes led that category with 26.