No. 13: Harold Castro, 2B
Harold Castro might still be a relative unknown to some, but certainly should be on everyone's radar now. Prior to the 2012 season, I'll admit that even I wasn't quite sure what the Tigers had in Castro, and at this time last year he would have been found somewhere in the 35-45 range on this very list, had I been doing one. However, as you'll see, Castro's performance in 2012, in addition to his scouting profile, certainly warrants such a massive leap up the rankings lists. Castro was signed as an international free agent in 2010 out of Caracas, Venezuela (sound familiar?). He made his professional debut as a 17 year old in the Venezuelan Summer League (VSL) in 2011, where he performed quite well. During the 2011 season, he posted a .313/.352/.365/.717 slash line, to go along with 24 stolen bases, 11 walks, and only 21 strikeouts in 272 plate appearances. Castro was brought stateside for the 2012 season, where he was the starting 2B for the GCL Tigers (Rookie League), at just 18 years old. There, he again showed his advanced hitting ability, posting an OPS of .763 to go along with 15 steals, 10 walks, and 25 strikeouts in 216 plate appearances. It was during the 2012 season that scouts began to rave about Castro, and subsequently he saw his prospect stock rise significantly.
Castro stands 6'0" tall and weighs around 145-150lbs, which is in the Dixon Machado mold of "rail thin", but he has shown bodily progression from year to year, so scouts think he will definitely get bigger and stronger as he matures, filling out well in the end. He's strictly a 2nd baseman, but shows the potential to be a solid-average (or maybe even above-average) defender as his raw instincts and actions catch up to his overall athleticism. He shows good range to both sides, and has more than enough arm to make all the throws required of a 2nd baseman. I wouldn't grade his arm out as above-average, but it's a very useable tool. Castro is also an above-average to plus runner, showing plus times out of the batters box on occasion, but settling more consistently in the above-average range. He's a good baserunner with good instincts, and combining that with his speed, I think it's fair to say that he could steal 20 bases at the major league level. Castro is one of the most instinctual, natural hitters in the entire system. He projects to be a plus hitter down the line, combining excellent pitch recognition skills, fantastic hands, and a quick, line drive swing to hit for high average. His body isn't developed enough to hit for much power right now, but his hit profile combined with projecting his body says that he could eventually become a doubles machine, spraying line drives into the gaps frequently, but he'll never have more than below-average home run power. He doesn't walk a lot, but that's more a product of the fact that he can hit pitches that would be called balls, and does, more so than having bad plate discipline. He also hardly strikes out, which is something I know everyone is excited about.
I see Castro's ceiling as being an above-average regular at 2B, more because of his bat than because of his glove, but he'll be at least average defensively. He could fit in perfectly in the 2 hole of the order, hitting close to or at .300 with minimal strikeouts, doubles power, excellent bat control, and the ability to steal some bases. He's not what you would call "flashy", but his hitting ability is so advanced and good that I struggle to project him as anything but a starter, even if his defense remains somewhat rough. Now, keep in mind, Castro is only 19 and has yet to play in full season ball anywhere, so he's still a long ways away, but if you like projection and are able to dream several years into the future, it's really hard not to like what you see with Castro. As for 2013, I'm torn, to be honest. I could see Castro handling an aggressive assignment to West Michigan to play everyday, but I could also see him being kept behind in extended spring training, due to the fact that Devon Travis also looks ready to take over 2B at West Michigan, and Travis is several years older than Castro. Spring Training will obviously tell us the rest, but I think we'll see Castro in to start, then eventually moving on to Connecticut for short season ball, or maybe West Michigan at around mid-season.