RODOLFO CASTRO, SECOND BASEMAN
|Born: May 21, 1999
Signed: Int’l Free Agent, 2015, Pittsburgh Pirates
How Acquired: International Free Agent
Country: Dominican Republic
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Castro originally was a shortstop who was signed more for his glove than his bat. He’s turned out rather differently, as he has good power from both sides of the plate. He’s struggled with impatience at the plate, but has improved as he’s moved up. Defensively, he was erratic at short and, since getting to full-season ball, has spent the largest amount of time at second, where his range is good. He has the arm for the left side of the infield and has seen time at third. Castro runs well. The Pirates seem to regard him as a potential super-utility player.
Castro’s first season went rather differently from the script. Despite doubts about his bat, he hit quite well, especially for a player who was barely 17 when the season began. He even showed some pop and good patience, although his strikeout rate was high. His defense was another story, as he had 34 errors and a frightening .884 fielding percentage. The Pirates stuck with him as the regular at short, though, and a player that young can develop a lot in a couple years.
Castro divided his time more or less equally between second, third and short in the GCL. Several factors may have contributed to him not spending more time at short. One was the presence of Victor Ngoepe, who’s a natural shortstop. The others were injuries to utility infielder Francisco Mepris and third baseman Jesse Medrano. Castro was very erratic in the field, with significant error problems at both third and short. He seems to have the physical ability to play short, and certainly has the arm. At the plate he hit for good power, finishing fourth in the league in slugging average. He did strike out a lot.
The Pirates moved Castro up to West Virginia, where he was one of the younger players at the level. With Oneil Cruz at short, he played second, although he started 11 games at short. He was very erratic at first, committing nine errors in his first 22 games at the position, but he had only seven more in his last 67. At the plate, he had a disappointing season, with a lack of patience and high K rate. He did make a lot of progress in the season’s second half, most of it in the form of increased power; he batted 247/294/451 starting from July 1. Like many switch-hitters, he had much more trouble batting right-handed, albeit in a small sample size; he had a .508 OPS against LHPs, compared with .710 against RHPs.
The Pirates sent Castro back to low A, in this case Greensboro. He played second primarly but also got 17 games at short, mainly when Connor Kaiser was out with minor injuries, and seven at third. At the plate, he mostly turned things around, hitting for very good power; if he’d had enough ABs, he would have led the league in ISO and been second in slugging. He doesn’t seem to have benefited too much from the extreme HR environment in Greensboro’s park, as he hit exactly half his low A HRs on the road. Castro was impatient, though, swinging at too many pitches, which led to a low average and OBP. The Pirates promoted him to Bradenton in late June and he got off to a rough start there, struggling to a .398 OPS in July. He turned it around partially in August, batting 299/346/443. He seems to have toned down his swing at Bradenton, as his K rate dropped. Defensively he again played primarily at second but started 16 games at short and four at third. Castro again hit much better left-handed than right-handed, with a .912 OPS vs. .704. Defensively, he showed good range and his error totals, at both second and short, weren’t bad.
Castro was at the Pirates’ alternate training site in the summer. The Pirates added him to the 40-man roster after the season.
Castro had a big season. He had a huge month in July at Altoona, batting 365/390/688. That got him called up to the majors when the Pirates had some injuries. He played more or less regularly at second for the Pirates for part of July and most of August, and became the first player ever whose first five major league hits were home runs. After the strong start, things unsurprisingly got tougher for him. The Pirates oddly sent him back to AA rather than AAA and he went into a dismal slump, going 6-for-75 (.080) over his last 19 AA games. When the AA season ended, the Pirates moved him up to Indianapolis and he hit very well over eight games. Defensively, he alternated between second and third in the minors, more often the latter, and played a few games at short. He had some error problems at both positions, but it’d probably help if he stayed at one for an extended period.
Castro should have gotten at least a shot at the Pirates’ second base job in spring training, but he was an early cut. The Pirates eventually called him up in mid-May for about three weeks, then brought him back in early August for the rest of the season. He struggled in his first go-round in the majors, with a .565 OPS, but seemed like a different hitter late in the year, posting an OPS of .788. Castro also struggled when he went back to them minors in June, but he seemed to tone down his approach after that, and the improvement may have carried over to the majors. He had a huge platoon split while in Pittsburgh, putting up an OPS of .906 against LHPs and .642 against RHPs. Defensively, Castro split his time between second, third and short, in that order of frequency. At Indianapolis, Castro mainly split his time between third and short, with some appearances at second. The metrics suggest that Castro was probably best at third.
Castro should get at least a shot at the starting second base job for the Pirates in 2023.
|2023: Major League Minimum|
|Signing Bonus: $150,000
MiLB Debut: 2016
MLB Debut: N/A
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2026
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/2020
Options Remaining: 1 (USED: 2021, 2022)
MLB Service Time: 0.125
|October 30, 2015: Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an international free agent.
November 20, 2020: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.