Why is Koyie Hill Playing?
When Geovany Soto went on the DL with a sore shoulder, and the Cubs called up AAA catcher Wellington Castillo, most people thought Castillo would get a majority of the playing time at catcher. The Cubs have been playing rookies all season, 15 in total now, and for the most part have given them every chance to play and show what they might bring in the future.
For Castillo though, this seems to not be the case, because Lou will look for any excuse to play Koyie Hill. Lou fell in love with Koyie last summer, when Soto went on the DL and Hill started 29 games in a row. Even when Soto showed early on in the season that was returning to his 2008 form, Lou still trotted out Hill a few times a week. It wasn’t until July that Soto finally took hold of the starting position, when his bat just became too good for even Lou to ignore.
Koyie Hill is nothing special as a baseball player. He’s a terrible hitter, with a career wOBA of .255, and a .575 OPS that makes even Aaron Miles laugh. Lou has always used Hill’s defense as his rationale for playing him, except that Hill has a low defensive rating on FanGraphs, and has only four caught stealing this year. He can’t hit, can’t field, but you better believe he’s starting again today.
It’s especially bothersome considering there is almost no way Hill is a Chicago Cub next season. Castillo can probably be a major league backup right now (though Lou has no intention of finding out) and AA catcher Robinson Chirinos has a .991 OPS this season. Both are more than capable of starting six games a month at the major league level, and both will almost certainly perform better than Hill.
So why does Lou continue to write Hill’s name into the lineup? Nobody is going to confuse Castillo with a star player, but he should be given the chance to show the Cubs what he can do. Castillo’s best skill happens to be throwing out runners, which is Lou’s crappy reason for playing Hill to begin with.
When Soto returns in a week this probably won’t matter. Castillo will go back to Iowa, and we will see him again in late September or Spring Training. Hill will probably return to his bench role, though I’m sure one 0-4 game from Soto will result in Hill being platooned with him again.
Still, for a team that has had no problem playing rookies over highly paid veterans, it makes no sense that Koyie Hill is the exception.