Who is Harold Castro? The invitee who can play anywhere
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- He plays everywhere on the diamond. Almost literally.
He’s played every outfield position, every infield position but catcher and has even made seven appearances on the mound in his MLB career. Add to that the fact that he’s hitting .414 this spring, and you have to ask yourself: Who is Harold Castro?
“I don’t know,” Castro said when asked what Rockies fans should know about the 29-year-old from Venezuela. “Um … I’m friendly? I can play basketball a little bit? I don’t know what to say.”
That’s not a problem when your bat does the talking for you. Castro went 1-for-3 in the Rockies’ 4-2 loss to the D-backs at Salt River Fields on Friday afternoon, recording at least one hit for the 10th time in 11 Cactus League games.
With the rash of injuries the Rockies have encountered already this year, particularly in the outfield with Randal Grichuk recovering from bilateral sports hernia surgery and Sean Bouchard’s season potentially ending due to a left biceps tear, Castro’s defensive versatility and penchant for collecting hits could make him an unexpectedly valuable piece of Colorado’s early-season puzzle.
“He’s very comfortable anywhere we put him, and we’ve moved him around the diamond,” manager Bud Black said. “And there’s a sense that we get as coaches that he’s comfortable and confident as a Major League player, no matter where we put him.”
Castro gets hits -- his career .284 average shows it -- but his .309 career on-base percentage is below average, and he doesn’t slug. In other words: too few walks and too few extra-base hits. In this era, that’ll make it tough to stay in a big-league lineup, which is why the Tigers non-tendered him in November after five MLB seasons.
Castro knows what he needs to improve upon -- namely, his walk rate, which was just 3.8 percent last season. He was asked after Friday’s game how his eye is developing at the plate. A grin formed on his face as he began to answer.
“Well, I don’t have any walks this spring,” he said. “Not yet. I’ve gotta keep working on that.”
Castro will keep working on that, but in the meantime, it seems he’s ticketed for Denver to start the regular season thanks to his bat-to-ball skills and ability to play almost anywhere defensively. If he continues to pick up hits -- particularly now that his home ballpark would be Coors Field, where the outfield is as spacious as they come -- he could become a key man for Colorado early on in the regular season, and perhaps even beyond.
Stats matter. Whether it’s batting average or a number that provides more depth to a hitter’s value, like OPS or OPS+, baseball is a numbers game. But Castro, in Black’s eyes, also has something that can’t be quantified.
“There’s a confidence in his play,” Black said. “You can just see it throughout the day right here in Spring Training. There’s a confidence to who he is as a player. … And he can hit.”
On the bubble
With Cactus League play entering the home stretch, it’s a good time to check in on some players who are going to have to impress over the final 10 days if they want to crack the Opening Day roster.
On the position-player side, the outfield is where the most intriguing battle for a roster spot is found. With Grichuk and Bouchard hurt, Kris Bryant moving to right field and Yonathan Daza looking like the starter in center, left field is up for grabs. It seems Castro is a favorite at this point, though Michael Toglia, the organization’s No. 12 prospect, has begun to hit a little more as of late -- he belted his first two home runs of the spring within the past week.
Nolan Jones, the club’s No. 17 prospect, is also trying to make the team, but he’s hitting just .143 during Cactus League play. And Cole Tucker, in a similar situation, is hitting only .219 after going 0-for-2 on Friday.
As far as the pitching staff goes, right-hander Connor Seabold turned some heads with a couple of impressive outings, but he was hit hard by the Padres on Thursday, seeing his spring ERA balloon from 1.29 to 6.14.
Seabold is hoping to make the club as either the fifth starter or in the bullpen, and Ryan Feltner, his chief competition for the rotation spot, hasn’t really distinguished himself in three starts this spring (six earned runs over 7 1/3 innings).