The Detroit Tigers increased their prospect depth at a much-needed position prior to Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline when they shipped center fielder Leonys Martin and right-handed pitcher Kyle Dowdy to division-rival Cleveland for shortstop Willi Castro. The 21-year-old shortstop signed with the Tribe as a 16-year-old back in 2013 and shot up the organizational prospect rankings, starting with his breakout 2017 campaign with Lynchburg of the Carolina League (High-A). Last season, Castro hit an impressive .290/.337/.424 as a 20-year-old, with 11 home runs and 19 stolen bases. As a switch-hitting shortstop from Puerto Rico, the Francisco Lindor comparisons might be inevitable.
While Castro has a long way to go before he leads all shortstops in WAR like his countryman, there are some promising tools that have propelled him to as high as No. 5 on Indians’ prospect lists (MLB Pipeline – 2018 Preseason Rankings). MLB dropped him to No. 8 in their midseason rankings, mostly due to concerns about his consistency with the glove. Despite citing the “necessary soft hands, actions and arm strength to stick at shortstop,” back-to-back 25-error seasons have raised questions about his consistency. Castro is one of the younger players in the Eastern League, having just turned 21 in April, and these types of defensive struggles are very normal for a kid at this stage of development.
The .290 batting average from a year ago may be a bit lofty for his realistic future output, as it has predictably dipped to .245 through 97 games this year. His hit tool projects to be average to slightly below average. Both Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs and Jason Woodell of 2080 Baseball have noted Castro’s impatience at the plate in their scouting reports. The strikeout rate is up, from 17.5 percent in 2017 to 20.5 percent this year. The walks have also ticked up, from 5.5 percent to 6.8 percent. Castro has tremendous hand-eye coordination which enables him to hit the ball hard, but he will need to work on tempering that aggressive nature to maximize his hit tool potential.
New Tigers SS prospect Willi Castro is an above-average defensive shortstop and above-average runner. Has great natural bat-to-ball skills from both sides of the plate but is an impatient hitter. Gap power from left side, slasher from the right. Low-end regular or utility guy.— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) July 31, 2018
As for power, another tool that projects to be about average, all five of his homers this year have come from the left side of the plate. Eleven of his 20 doubles, however, have come from the right side, despite 173 fewer at-bats as a righty. Listed at 6’1 and 165 pounds, there could still be a little bit of projection left in his frame.
Both the glove and arm project to be average to above average, resulting in an overall Future Value of 45 from Fangraphs and 50 from MLB Pipeline. All things considered, a 45/50-grade shortstop prospect, who is just 21 years old and already at Double-A, is absolutely a fine trade deadline return for a one-year rental like Leonys Martin.