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Glimmer of Hope: Castro

For as long as I can remember the Astros have been known for their heavy hitting catchers.  If we run down the list of Astro catchers, it's practically a home run derby.  Quintero, Corporan, Towles, Cash, Munson, Rodriguez, Ausmus, Chavez, Zaun, Meluskey, and Eusebio have caught the majority of the innings in Houston for the past 11 years.  Ok, so my sarcasm about some of those guys is a bit over the top.  Ausmus wasn't here to hit and apparently he did everything a catcher is supposed to do, and he did it well.  Personally, Eusebio was my favorite.  Not only did he hit the ball to the opposite field (every time he made contact), but he had a great voice for interviews with a thick accent.  And boy, he loved to talk.  Despite my affection for some of them, that list of catchers really didn't add much offense.  Meluskey was the only above average hitter, but had many other flaws.  I thought those times were finally over.  At last we had a top prospect that could catch.  At last we had Castro the Astro.

Well, we did have him until, like all things Astro related this season, he got broken.  To make it even worse, his injury happened during spring training just after some fancy-pants, voodoo, injury prophet had warned us of the possibility.  Damned soothsayers never have good news.  Can't one of these crystal-ball peepers look deep into, whatever it is they look into to discern the likelihood of an injury, and give us some good news?  So out Castro went for the season leaving Quintero, Corporan, and Towles to guide our pitching staff and carry on the legacy of Astro-home run-mashing-catchers.  I had hoped that Towles would grab hold of this opportunity and pull himself out of the minors for good...he didn't.  In all, the Astros' catchers contributed this slash line for the year .209/.255/.290 with the fewest home runs in the league (5).

I hope that Castro will return at full strength next season and stay that way.  Maybe "hope" isn't the right word...I pray, and I'm not religious...I pray that Castro is back and healthy.  I would say that the Astros are praying for his return as well, but at this point, I don't think anyone in the front office cares about next season.  Is there even a front office anymore?  

Here's what Mr. Castro can do to make me happy.  First of all, he needs to bring some of what Ausmus brought and give us brains, pitch framing, pitch blocking, and a solid arm behind the plate.  He doesn't have to be the very best, but he has to be above average.  Then, of course, I hope he can bring a bat.  He won't have to do too much to improve our overall production from the catcher spot, but I would be happy with a Carlos Ruiz (this season) type of performance from him.  I came up with Ruiz by looking at other players that had a BB% of 10-13% and a K% of 10-13%, (I think Castro could be in that neighborhood) and happened to find a catcher.  Realizing that catcher is the position that Castro plays, and taking this as an omen, I decided to look at Ruiz's other stats this season to see if I thought they were reachable for Castro and if I would be satisfied with them.  Ruiz's slash line for the season was .283/.371/.383.  I would take that.  Would you?  I have to be honest with myself, and to expect such production in his first full season after a major knee injury is too much.  But maybe in 2013 a line like that will be possible.  

In all, Castro may never live up to his expectations, and he may prove right all the people who wanted a different player in the 2008 draft.  But if he does solve the catcher dilemma for 4 or 5 years bringing good defense, good game calling, along with a Ruiz-type bat, I personally won't complain.  But there is a glimmer of hope that someone can hit the ball and catch next season.

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