Pittsburgh Pirates young infielder Rodolfo Castro turned in a solid rookie campaign and trended upward in the second half of the year.
This year, one of the more unsung seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates was infielder Rodolfo Castro. Castro entered the year as one of the team’s many notable infield prospects. Castro made his debut in 2021 but posted a poor .653 OPS, .281 wOBA, and 63 wRC+ through his first 93 plate appearances. But after getting more and more consistent playing time, Castro put up solid numbers in his rookie campaign.
In 278 plate appearances, Castro batted .233/.299/.427 with 11 home runs. Castro has always been known for his plus power potential, and he showed it off, reaching double-digit home runs in less than 300 plate appearances and having a .194 isolated slugging percentage, which was the ninth-best among all rookies with at least 250 trips to the dish.
Castro also reduced his strikeout rate from 29% in 2021 to 26.6% this year. His walk rate also moved in the right direction, increasing from 6.5% to 7.9%. Neither is great, but more importantly, it’s a step in the right direction. Overall, Castro was about a league average hitter, having a .315 wOBA and 102 wRC+.
Castro also did much better in the second half of the year. In his final 196 plate appearances of 2022, the infielder batted .251/.311/.486 with a .342 wOBA and 121 wRC+. His 28.1% strikeout rate certainly wasn’t good, but he had an 8.2% walk rate and hit for power. Castro blasted ten home runs with a .235 isolated slugging percentage. The only rookies with a higher ISO from August 10th through the end of the year were outfielders Michael Harris and Lars Nootbaar, and he was the 16th-highest ISO in the league throughout that span.
Castro mainly played second base, where he was a negative defender. He had -2 Defensive Runs Saved, -3 Outs Above Average, and a -9.2 UZR/150. He also saw time at third base (where he was an above-average defender) and shortstop (where he was even worse than when he manned second base), but he’s likely not going to overtake either Ke’Bryan Hayes or Oneil Cruz for playing time at either position.
That gives him sort of a second base/DH outlook, but he should hit more than enough to warrant at least semi-regular playing time. Castro crushed left-handed pitching, batting for a 148 wRC+ against southpaws, but had a measly 84 wRC+ when facing right-handers. The Pirates could platoon him with another player at second base or DH in 2023. Still, they’ll likely give him regular playing time until another prospect comes up or until his struggles against right-handed pitching become too much of a problem or he doesn’t improve against righties, whichever comes first.
Castro is a name to watch in 2023. He could sneakily hit 25 home runs depending on if he can continue to hit as he did from August onward and depending on how much playing time he gets. He’ll likely open the season as the primary second base with DH sprinkled in but could move to DH more often once Nick Gonzales gets promoted or Ji-Hwan Bae demands more playing time in the middle infield.