Castillo calls his shot: Prospect cracks OD roster

April 4th, 2022

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Diego Castillo played it perfectly. He had to have been bursting inside with the good news prior to the 9-3 win against the Orioles on Monday, but he also hadn’t been cleared to pass word along just yet.

So the 24-year-old collected a congratulatory hug or two from teammates at his locker at LECOM Park, then dutifully swung around to the group of reporters stationed nearby and feigned ignorance when asked if he had anything he wanted to share.

The worst-kept secret in the clubhouse was made official less than an hour later when Pirates manager Derek Shelton announced that the club’s No. 21 prospect per MLB Pipeline would break camp with the team.

“[It was a] very cool moment,” manager Derek Shelton said Monday morning. “I know he's very excited. When I told him [Sunday], I said, ‘Hey, keep this to yourself.’ And he said, ‘If I told my mom, it's coming out.’”

Castillo’s long been a high-contact hitter with a career strikeout rate of lower than 11 percent across six Minor League seasons. After landing with the Pirates in the Clay Holmes trade with the Yankees at last season’s Trade Deadline, Castillo combined a bit more patience with a renewed confidence at the plate to up his value even more, connecting for a career-best 19 homers between Double- and Triple-A.

Prior to 2021, Castillo had just eight career round-trippers. Just as he played his way onto the Triple-A roster and eventually the Pirates’ 40-man last fall, Castillo was determined to do the same with the Opening Day roster in 2022.

He let Pittsburgh general manager Ben Cherington know as much, too.

“He was just so -- very respectfully -- but so clear with me like, ‘No. I'm gonna get a roster spot. I'm gonna make a team,’” Cherington said with a chuckle on Monday morning. “And sure enough, he did. So good for him. He's had a great, great Spring Training.”

Having earned a roster spot, Castillo still continued to impress with a hot bat. He went 4-for-4 -- including a home run off of Bruce Zimmerman in the third inning -- with two RBIs against Baltimore.

Perhaps even more important to the Pirates than his power and consistency at the plate, Castillo is a versatile infielder who’s played mostly at shortstop and second base in the Minors (359 and 160 games, respectively) but also appeared in 24 games at third.

On Monday against the Orioles in Bradenton, Fla., Castillo was the starting right fielder. While Shelton acknowledged Castillo will need some seasoning out on the grass, he also allowed that Castillo can fill any number of holes as needed.

“We're going to get him out there more,” Shelton said. “His versatility and the way he swung the bat is really important for us. And we've always talked about being able to play different infield positions, but when you can bounce out and play the corners, too, it provides a ton for us.

“I watched his early work today ... stuff around the wall, and he did a really nice job with it. He's a baseball player. We put him on the field, he's gonna do his job.”