The past couple days have not been kind to the Detroit Tigers’ middle infielders. Josh Harrison suffered a hamstring injury in game action on Monday, and was placed on the 10-day injured list on Tuesday. He was diagnosed with a Grade II hamstring strain, which could leave him out for a while.
That’s not all, though. Jordy Mercer is already out with a muscle strain of his own, and left a minor league rehab assignment game on Tuesday early with quad tightness. The move was deemed “precautionary” by those in the know, but this is already the second time Mercer has been on the IL in 2019.
The Tigers have gotten by with fill-ins from Ronny Rodriguez, Gordon Beckham, and Harold Castro, but all three have offered limited upside of late; Rodriguez has a .246 OPS since May 15, Beckham has cooled off as well, and Castro is what he is at this point: a utility infielder that (probably) should not be counted upon for long stretches.
Then there’s Willi Castro. Detroit’s shortstop of the future (for now) is enjoying an excellent season at Triple-A Toledo, hitting .349/.426/.527 with 18 extra-base hits and eight stolen bases through 43 games. Most fans would agree that he needs consistent at-bats, which he is getting in Toledo, but extended absences from both Harrison and Mercer could open up some playing time for the No. 12 prospect in the Tigers’ system.
That brings us to our Question of the Day:
When should the Tigers call up Willi Castro?
My answer: Call him up now. He has been tearing the cover off the ball this season, and has earned a chance to test his mettle in the bigs — certainly more so than the recently recalled Victor Reyes and his .651 OPS in Triple-A. Castro has a 1.020 OPS since May 1, and has produced from both sides of the plate throughout 2019. He also doesn’t have the same constraints other prospects in the system do, as he is already on the 40-man roster. And any handwringing over his MLB service time is overblown, I think.
The only real concern is Castro’s defense. He has already committed nine errors, and has a history of high error totals in previous years in the minors. This will happen with talented infielders in the minors, however, and I’m encouraged that he cut his error total from the mid-20s to 15 when he reached Double-A in 2018. Reports suggest that most of his errors are of the mental variety, which sounds bad, but could make for a quicker fix than a mechanical flaw. Perhaps simply being called to the majors could help Castro focus in a bit more on some of the simpler plays he is faced with, leading to better results on that side of the diamond.