Willi Castro may be more familiar than you think – Which young player should we be most optimistic about the future?

Willi Castro may be more familiar than you think – Which young player should we be most optimistic about the future?
Willi Castro may be more familiar than you think – Which young player should we be most optimistic about the future?

The Minnesota Twins recently signed Willi Castro to a minor league contract. He won’t be the first-day shortstop, he probably won’t make the team, and in a perfect world, he’ll probably never see the big leagues in 2023. Having had a very imperfect 2022, Castro offers depth in several positions and has some intriguing skills worth noting. While digging I found some interesting things about Castro that I would like to share and found him to be a more familiar player than I initially thought.

Feature image via Tom Hagerty

So far in his career, Willi Castro hasn’t been a very productive Major League Baseball player. Through just over 300 games and 1,000 plate appearances, he’s slashing .245/.292/.381 (.673 OPS) with a 4.7% BB%, 24.1% K%, 86 wRC+ and -22 total DRS (defensive runs saved) at six different positions in 2,338 innings and 1.6 fWAR. Not to be redundant, but he’s been relatively unimpressive so far, hence why he was DFA for the Detroit Tigers and could only land a minor league contract.

So why would the Twins invest? For starters, minor league contracts carry almost no risk, meaning if the Twins cut it midway through the season, there are no negative consequences. Castro is a switch hitter who has been significantly better against left-handed throwing (career .711 OPS vs. LHP – .658 OPS vs. RHP). The Twins have been looking for more effective bats against left-handed pitchers, and he has experience in the Major League at six positions: 2B, SS, 3B and the three outfield spots. Additionally, Castro also has eye-catching athletic metrics. According to Statcast, his maximum sprint speed for his career is 115.4 mph, which was the 95th percentile in 2021. Statcast recorded his sprint speed in 2022 as the 78th percentile, and his arm strength marked in the 87th percentile, with his hardest throw reaching 97.0 MPH.

Can you think of any Twins players that look familiar to Willi Castro?

The player that came to mind is Danny Santana. Both players entered the big leagues with a bang, but their teams eventually moved on after both players failed to repeat their hot starts. Santana bounced back in the minor leagues and resurfaced as a utility man with another breakout season in 2019 but was largely unproductive outside of 2014 and 2019. Castro was outstanding in 2020 but has been relatively unproductive since and follows in Santana’s footsteps trying to survive in the Majors as a service man. He has about 800 more plate appearances than Castro, but their career numbers are similar in some areas.

Here are some very close stats for Castro and Santana:

(Castro) (Santana)

OBP: .292 .296

BB%: 4.7% 4.8%

K%: 24.1% 25.6%

RC+: 86 85

xwOBA (.316 League average): .296 .290

Z-Swing % (Avg League 66.9%): 75.0% 74.5%

O-Swing %% (League average 28.4%): 39.8% 36.9%

Swing % (Avg League 47.1%): 56.7% 55.3%

Whiff % (league average 24.7%): 29.2% 29.7%

DRS to SS: -13 (696 innings) -15 (918 innings)

Sprint speed: 78th percentile (2022) 74th percentile (2021)

Arm strength: 87th percentile (2022) 96th percentile (2021)

What stands out from these numbers? The similarities between the two players are plate discipline and bat-to-ball ability. These players are medium-batting, low-walking, free-moving hitters with good raw power that hasn’t fully translated into game power, likely due to plate discipline or approach. They also compare similarly to athletes and defensively at shortstop.

So how do they differ as players? Castro and Santana use their athleticism quite differently. Santana, throughout his career, has two different 20 stolen base seasons and has a 75/101 (74.3% hit rate); Castro has stolen just 18 bases and is 18/28 (64.2% hit rate) in his career. Santana also hit for a bit more power than Castro so far; Santana’s career SLG is .413, Castro at .381 with ISO (SLG minus BA, league average .183) saying the same; Santana at .159 and Castro at .136. Castro has seen his athletic ability translate more to the defensive side of the ball. While neither player stayed at SS, Willi Castro turned into a viable defensive option in the outfield, which Santana never really did. DRS (0), UZR (0.1) and OAA (-1) all agree that in 724 innings, Castro is about an average outfielder in the league. They are less conclusive on Santana but overall are weak, totaling 1945 innings, with DRS having it at -7, UZR at -1.1 and OAA at 1.

This decision by the Twins has a negative undertone due to how the offseason has gone so far, but try not to let their failure in one area (or player) affect your judgment on Castro. He has some very enticing physical tools as well as spurts of major league success, not to mention that Detroit is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in all of baseball. A deal with that kind of benefit on a minor league contract is good for the Twins. Although praising this signing seems contradictory as ideally he never leaves St. Paul, we are likely to see Castro at some point due to his versatility and the inevitability of injury. Whether you’re a fan of this movement or not, I hope this nugget has interested you in some way and I look forward to reading your thoughts on Willi Castro.

Links and definitions for some lesser known statistics:

xwOBA: https://www.mlb.com/glossary/statcast/expected-woba

wRC+: https://www.mlb.com/glossary/advanced-stats/weighted-runs-created-plus

Z-Swing%, O-Swing%: https://library.fangraphs.com/offense/plate-discipline/

Whiff %: total swings and misses/total swings

DRS: https://library.fangraphs.com/defense/drs/

UZR: https://library.fangraphs.com/defense/uzr/

OAA: https://www.mlb.com/glossary/statcast/outs-above-average

. Willi Castro is maybe familiar you think What young player shouldwe be optimistic as to the future

. Willi Castro familiar young player optimistic future

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