Welington Castillo: White Sox better than 2014 Cubs; World Series coming soon

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Catcher Welington Castillo is a big fan of what the White Sox have going. (AP/Carlos Osorio)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — This isn’t new White Sox catcher Welington Castillo’s first ‘‘rebuild’’ rodeo. It was Castillo who started at catcher in more than half the games — 256 in all — during the first three seasons of president Theo Epstein’s run with the Cubs.

And here’s the thing about that: Castillo thinks the 2018 Sox are further along than the Cubs were in 2014, one year before they broke through — probably ahead of schedule — to win 97 regular-season games and reach the National League Championship Series.

‘‘In 2013, when I was with the Cubs, we weren’t even close to what we’ve got here,’’ Castillo said. ‘‘In 2014, [the Cubs] started changing; you started to see more about the big prospects. But they still weren’t really coming to the big leagues. The White Sox, our prospects are already here, and they’re building together. This organization is still a step ahead of the Cubs [in 2014].’’

That sounds an awful lot like Castillo — signed for two years and $15 million, with an $8 million team option for 2020 — sees a Sox postseason in the near future. As a matter of fact, he does. Now 30 and with his fifth major-league team, Castillo hopes to stick around for a while and experience the good times.

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‘‘I would like to because I know I can help this team,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve been through the same situation that this organization is at right now, and I think that I have a little bit of experience in what to do to help the young pitching staff and the young players.

‘‘I would like to be here when this team wins the World Series. It won’t take long.’’

The Sox have an apparent catcher of the future in highly regarded prospect Zack Collins, but they also have a parade of young starting pitchers — Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer at the big-league level and Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease and others in the pipeline — who might benefit from the presence of an experienced battery mate.

Sox manager Rick Renteria, who was Castillo’s manager with the Cubs in 2014, sees a catcher who has learned a thing or two along his big-league journey about working with pitchers.

‘‘Experience for him has worked very, very well,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘He knows what he’s doing back there.’’

Castillo was 17 when he signed with the Cubs as an amateur free agent. He began his professional career at 18, got his first taste of the majors at 23 and was a No. 1 catcher soon after that. Along the way, he got extended looks at all the hotshot Cubs-to-be, from third baseman Kris Bryant (‘‘He was ready [for the major leagues] in 2014’’) to catcher Willson Contreras (‘‘He’s a great kid’’).

But the Cubs went with Miguel Montero as their No. 1 catcher in 2015 and brought in David Ross to be Jon Lester’s personal catcher. Castillo’s usefulness on the North Side just kind of ran out — before he could experience the payoff for all his hard work during their rebuild.

‘‘You want to stay with the team that hires you the first time, 17 years old, stay the whole time with them and win the World Series,’’ he said. ‘‘But this is a business. You play for the team that has you. Still, I know I was part of the process, the rebuilding. And I was very happy for them, seeing them win the World Series.’’

The Sox’ top prospects are mostly pitchers, whereas the Cubs’ were pretty much all position players. It might be comparing apples to oranges, but Castillo said the overall talent level of the two groups is too close to call.

‘‘Yes, sir — no doubt,’’ he said. ‘‘I see as much young talent here as I’ve ever seen anywhere.’’

Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

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