Pittsburgh Pirates: A Look At Infield Prospect Rodolfo Castro
By Noah Wright
The Pittsburgh Pirates second base job is a bit up in the air. Sure, as of now, back-to-back Gold Glove Award finalist Adam Frazier remains on the roster at second base. However, all signs point toward Frazier being traded this offseason.
If Frazier is traded, this would leave Phillip Evans, Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker and Erik Gonzalez as other players on the 26-man roster with the capability of playing the keystone position. This also leaves the short term future of shortstop a bit questionable as well. However, before the Rule 5 Draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates added infield prospect Rodolfo Castro to the 40-man roster and he could soon be part of the Pirate infield.
Castro was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 and made his professional debut with the Pirates’ Dominican Summer League affiliate the following season. Through his first 230 professional plate appearances, Castro put up a solid .271/.360/.411 line with 15 doubles and 2 hoem runs. All told, he had a 127 wRC+ and .378 wOBA. Castro drew a fair amount of walks putting up an 11.7% walk rate while playing mainly shortstop.
The following season the Pittsburgh Pirates promoted Castro to Rookie-Ball and he started to show decent power. His next 211 trips to the plate saw him bat .277/.340/.479 with a dozen doubles, six long balls and a .202 isolated slugging percentage. This culminated to him having an improved .384 wOBA and 132 wRC+. Castro played a little bit all over the infield seeing time at second base, shortstop and third base this time around. However, Castro did see his walk rate drop to 7.6% and his strikeout rate rise to 22.3%.
The slugger struggled through 2018 putting up a .298 wOBA and 89 wRC+, however, he did have a solid .164 isolated slugging showing he was still getting a fair amount of extra base hits. In 2019, Castro started the year at Low-A Greensboro where he put on his best display of power yet blasting 14 home runs in only 246 plate appearances while having a .516 slugging percentage and .274 isolated slugging. But this came at the cost of the rest of his hitting ability as he struck out 27.6% of the time, put up a .242 batting average and on-base percentage of just .306.
Still, Castro was a well above average hitter with a 131 wRC+. Eventually, he was promoted to High-A Bradenton where he had a similar batting average (.243), but lower OBP (.288) and much lower slugging percentage (.388).
Throughout the course of 2019, Castro put up an overall slash line of .242/.298/.456 with 19 home runs, 26 doubles and a .214 isolated slugging. While he did put up the best power numbers of his career so far, it came at the cost of both his OBP and BA as he became pretty much an all or nothing hitter. Still, given his ability to make consistent contact in 2016-2017 and 2021 only being his age-21 season, he could improve upon his hitting skill.
Castro’s highest graded tool is his raw power with a 55-future grade on FanGraphs while his game power has a 50-future grade. Castro averaged an above average 89 MPH exit velocity which shows he can barrel up the ball. He can also run fairly well. While he currently has a 55-speed grade, FanGraphs only sees him being a 50-speed runner. Castro has seen time at second base, third base and shortstop and could probably handle first base if he needed to. He’s seen as an average fielder overall with a 50-future fielding grade with a solid 50-grade arm. His worst tool is his hit tool which is only seen as a 40-grade in the future.
Castro sits at a solid 6’1″, 200 pounds. It’s also notable that he is a switch hitter. He could start the 2021 season at the Double-A level and has an ETA of 2021 on FanGraphs but could more realistically be sometime in 2022 with no minor league season last year. Still, it would be nice to see the Pittsburgh Pirates being able to get a switch hitting utility infielder in the majors soon. While Castro might not be the long term answer up the middle, he’d be a nice place holder for Nick Gonzales and Liover Peguero and a good power bench/utility bat, or a potential trade piece to fill other holes in a roster that might be ready to compete for a playoff spot.