It's time to take a look at Astros starting catcher, Jason Castro. Drafted in the first round of 2008 out of Stanford with the 10th overall pick, Castro was moved up very quickly and made his first appearance with the big club in 2010.
He was rated the 53rd best prospect by Baseball America in 2009, and appeared in the Futures game at the 2009 All-Star Break, hitting a 3 run homer and throwing out a runner. Although he was brought up to the parent club quickly, his bat was not expected to be major league ready, and it wasn't, as he hit .205 in 217 plate appearances. That number was somewhat depressed by a .250 BABIP. He did single off Tim Lincecum in his first major league AB.
Castro started the 2011 season as the projected starting catcher, and with Astros' fortunes at an all-time low, it was hoped he would get 450-500 ab's as part of the rebuilding project that is the Astros. Unfortunately, Castro tore his ACL in Spring Training, causing him to miss the entire 2011 season.
Castro returned in 2012 to accumulate 257 ab's as part of 295 plate appearances, in 87 games. He put a triple slash line of .257/.334/.401 on the board with a more predictable .309 BABIP suggesting those numbers were representative of the offensive skills he brought to the table. That total lead to a 1.3 WAR for 2012.
Defensively, Castro still faced some challenges. Whether as a result of his knee injury, or poor form, Castro was 4th in the NL with 8 passed balls in 2012, in only 87 games. He has a good arm and is capable of throwing out runners at a solid rate.
Manager Bo Porter has said he believes Castro will catch 125 games or so this year as the Astros primary catcher. To do so effectively, he must improve his lefty/righty splits, as his 2012 stats reveal a more than acceptable .286 BA against rightys, and a completely UNacceptable .148 against lefties. This split was even MORE pronounced in the second half of last season, with a .301/.100 split after he returned in August from another 5 weeks missed, due to a aggravation of his knee problems.
Encouraging, however, were his September stats, as 4 of his 6 homers last year came in the final 2 weeks of the season. His OPS rose from .718 in the first half, to .766 in the second. His walk rate , at 11%, is more than acceptable, as is his K rate. (61K/31BB).
According to Baseball Prospectus, his TAv was 17th among catchers. Castro will turn 26 in June, and Catchers often continue to develop into their late 20's and early 30's, so there is more than enough time for Castro to show he is at least Major League average , both as a hitter, and as a fielder.
There have been no complaints about his game-calling, so it remains to be seen if, another year removed from his ACL tear of March 2010, he is ready to step up and show why he was a Top Ten pick in the draft. Taken after Castro that year are such names as Justin Smoak (11), Jemile Weeks (12), Brett Wallace (13), Brett Lawrie (16), and Ike Davis (18).
Castro is off to a great Spring in 2013, leading the team with 5 bombs, and hitting over .400. He claims to have made a small adjustment in his swing, with a slight uppercut ending. It sure seems to be working so far!
What say you TCB'ers? Would you take 15-20 bombs, 60 steaks and a .260 BA for Castro this year? Is that reasonable to expect based upon performance to date? Personally, I believe those are attainable numbers for 2013, if his health remains good, and he accumulates 450 plate appearances. Baseball Prospectus lists Jorge Posada and Bill Freehan as Comps. I'd take it, wouldn't you?