Wednesday night, utility man Harold Castro was placed on the 10-day Injured List with a strain in his left hamstring. In a corresponding move, outfielder Jorge Bonifaco was placed on the 40-man roster and recalled from the team’s alternate training site in Toledo. Being placed on the 10-day IL instead of the 45-day means the book may not be closed on Castro’s 2020 campaign.
The injury was suffered while running to first base on a groundout. He walked off the field under his own power, but he was lisfted from the game immediately, with Victor Reyes taking his place in right field the following inning. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire expressed hope in the postgame media availability that Castro’s injury would be day-to-day, but the MRI revealed more severe damage.
Opinions on Castro’s value to the major league team are divided. His performance during the 2019 season caught the interest of some fans thanks to his high batting average. Additionally, the ability take over on the field when virtually anyone needs an off day increases his value.
The drawback? Aside from his pesky, slap hitting style, he doesn’t bring much to the plate. Despite that, the team’s brass has made it very clear by their actions that, at least for now, they see Castro as a significant part of the plan for baseball in Detroit. The utility man was used in a significant portion of last season’s games and played in 15 of 22 games this season.
The biggest complaint about Castro’s offensive style is his batting average, while impressive on the surface, is “empty.” In other words, he simply does not draw enough walks. That was borne out in excruciating detail over the course of his lengthy minor league career — in 2,798 plate appearances, he walked only 3.64 percent of the time. Yikes. The other significant problem with his offense is a lack of power output. In his minor league career, he hit a grand total of 14 home runs and his .071 isolated power is equally as uninspiring.
While last year was more of the same (2.4 percent walk rate and .093 ISO). Of course, a 15-game sample isn’t enough to be truly reflective of any gains or losses in his talent level, but he played significantly better than in his rookie season. His walk rate soared to 12.1 percent. While his ISO didn’t go through the roof, his hard hit rate — the percentage of batted balls with an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher — jumped from 28.5 percent to 43.5 percent.
The corresponding move to recall Bonifacio marks his first major league stint with the Tigers. Once a notable prospect in Kansas City, he ran out of chances with the Royals and he signed with Detroit on a minor league deal in December. The move was somewhat perplexing at the time, considering the Mud Hens’ roster was fully stocked with outfielders. The development of COVID-19 and its impact on baseball has created the circumstances for him to play in the bigs.
Detroit seemingly likes to give chances to former top prospects, but the key word is “former” when discussing Bonifacio. In his younger days, he was seen as having the potential to be a steady, well-rounded performer. He played that part in 2017, hitting at a roughly league average level and playing to the tune of 1.0 fWAR.
Things fell apart for him in 2018, and he completely lost the magic in 2019, when he hit only .222/.284/.417 in Triple-A. That slashline was a whopping 38 percent below average in a league that boasted one of the most hitter friendly environments in the entire sport. The result was Bonifacio’s removal from the Royals 40-man roster and subsequent release.
The amount of leash that the team plans to extend to their newest addition to the 40-man roster remains to be seen. They were fairly unforgiving with Carson Fulmer, another former top prospect who was given only 6 games before being removed from the roster. On the other hand, Sergio Alcántara has held onto his spot on the 40-man for years despite performing so poorly at the plate, FanGraphs wondered aloud about a possible conversion to pitching.
Regardless, Bonifacio fills a need for the time being and the Tigers had the roster spot available, so there was no reason to begrudge him his opportunity. However, if the opportunity to grab a better player on waivers presents itself, don’t be surprised if they take it at Bonifacio’s expense.