Pittsburgh Pirates: Each Breakout Candidate for 2023
By Noah Wright
Rodolfo Castro entered the 2022 season with a chance to take the second base job. By the end of the year, he had a firm grasp on the position. While many were speculating another player would steal it from Castro, there's no doubt that he is the second baseman in Pittsburgh for the time being.
Castro ended the year with a .233/.299/.427 triple-slash, .315 wOBA, and 103 wRC+. Castro, who was known for his pop as a prospect, hit 11 home runs in 278 plate appearances and had a .192 isolated slugging percentage. But he lacked plate discipline, only having a 7.6% walk rate and 26.6% strikeout rate.
Castro turned the heat up once he was recalled in August. In his final 200 PAs, the infielder slashed .247/.310/.478 with a .342 wOBA and 121 wRC+. Castro's ISO of .231 was the 20th-best mark among batters during the home stretch of the season. While he struck out more often (27.5% K-rate), he walked at an increased 8.5% rate.
But Castro will have some questions regarding his defensive ability. He had -2 defensive runs saved and -3 outs above average at the keystone in less than 300 innings (236, to be exact). But the Pirates could help mitigate some of his defensive struggles and give Ji-Hwan Bae reps at second base late in games as a defensive replacement or give Castro the day off to work off the bench or as the designated hitter once a week.
Castro could be the middle-of-the-order bat the Pirates need out of second base. Suwisnki, Cruz, and Castro could all be 20+ home run threats in 2023. Not to mention Bryan Reynolds. The last time the Pirates had three players with 20+ home runs was 2016, when Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, and Jung-Ho Kang all hit 20+. The last time they had four players achieve that feat was 1999.