19. Willi Castro – Shortstop
Born: 04/24/1997 – Height: 6’1” – Weight: 165 – Bats: Switch – Throws: Right
Facts & Info: Castro was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in July 2013 for $850,000. His father Lillian played in the minors and is currently a minor league coach with the Mets. Even though he was born and raised outside of the United States he is extremely good at speaking English. Last season, he finished 2nd in the Midwest League in at bats (518), 11th in runs (68), 8th in hits (134), 2nd in triples (8) and 12th in total bases (192).
Offense: Castro has some impressive physical features for his age that should really begin to take hold the next few years as he begins to fill out and gets stronger mentally with his game. He is a free swinger who has the intent to hit any pitch and the approach is raw because he lacks much experience, but he has some interesting hitting instincts and shows some very good hand-eye coordination and good hitting skills that should allow him to hit for average as he refines his game. He has a good swing with some good, quick hands that really allow him to get the barrel through the zone quickly and can catch up to higher velocity pitches. For a guy his size, he shows some occasional pop in his bat and has the good frame and strong, lean body with good physical attributes which should continue to get bigger and stronger as he matures and could lead to some average power down the road. His improved strength last season allowed him to drive the ball more consistently, which improved his confidence and made him a little more of a controlled hitter. He racked up 36 extra base hits and while his .122 isolated power percentage is not impressive on its own, it was up from .066 the previous season at Short-A Mahoning Valley.
Defense: Castro’s defensive skillset may be the most intriguing of all his tools as he really stands out defensively as a shortstop and is a plus defender there with a chance to be elite. The Indians love the actions at shortstop and all the athleticism he possesses where he shows some good lateral movement to his left and right and really covers a lot of ground to show above average range to make plays deep in the hole or behind second base. The Indians felt he made some significant strides in his consistently last season as he always showed the ability to make the exceptional play, but he was able to make more routine plays and stay within himself defensively. The arm is very good as he shows above average arm strength with good carry and accuracy on this throws and shows a ton of confidence in his ability to throw. While shortstop is his main position and where the Indians are developing him, with his athleticism, arm and defensive abilities it should allow him to handle any other infield position and even the outfield if the Indians wish to add more versatility to his game.
Speed & Intangibles: Castro is an above average runner with good speed and instincts on the basepaths. His athleticism and instincts play well in all facets of the game and are the backbone to his success so far and why there is so much excitement about what he can be as he matures. He is advanced for his age with his maturity and work ethic, and just has an overall good feel for the game because of the knowledge he has gained from growing up in it. He is also very fluent in English since he spent a lot of time in states since he was 12 years old while his father coached in the New York Mets system, so that just adds another layer to his game to be a better communicator, teammate and leader. He is a very passionate player, has a good work ethic and is very coachable.
Focus: The big glaring issue is the lack of patience and discipline as Castro only has 35 walks in 1,019 career plate appearances (3.4 BB%). His biggest area of focus is to develop his approach at the plate to be a little more patient, recognize pitches better and stay within the zone so that he is not so over-aggressive with his swing. He’s a bit of a hacker at the plate, so the Indians have worked to shorten up his swing, make sure he is swinging at good pitches and get him to work with a middle-away approach so he learns to see the ball longer and can identify spin better. He has a tendency to rush his load and over-step, so the Indians have worked to get him to slow things down in the box and simplify things to be more in tune with his movements as he loads and finishes his swing. The Indians were very encouraged with some strides he made at the plate last season to have a more controlled aggression with his swing and feel that it will allow him to drive the ball more regularly and have more consistent, quality at bats. He also has a tendency to waste at bats, which is common for a young player, so the Indians hope that as he matures and develops a plan for each at bat that he will not throw away as many at bats which will allow him to be more consistent offensively. He is a very aggressive defender which gets him in trouble sometimes, so the Indians have worked to control his energy and effort level a little more so he is more consistent with the routine plays and is able to handle game situations better, not let the game speed up on him and eliminate mistakes and not let them compound on him. The Indians want him to become a better base-stealer and would like to see him improve his ability to get better jumps and read pitchers better.
Future: With the graduation of Francisco Lindor the Indians needed another shortstop prospect in the lower levels to step into the light as one of the best the organization has to offer at the position and Castro is proving to be that person. He really responded well to the challenge of playing at Low-A Lake County almost all of last season and playing baseball every day for the first time in his career. This is a player with some significant helium potential who if the approach begins to click, he gets a little stronger and the bat-to-ball continues to come along, then he has the potential to be one of the Indians best prospects in the system and yet another big time shortstop prospect in all of baseball. The ability to drive the ball and get some extra base hits to go along with some outstanding defensive skills and the ability to impact on the bases makes him quite unique and interesting to watch grow and hopefully develop into the Major League player the Indians believe he can become. His performance was a bit inconsistent last year, but that is to be expected for a player his age who is sort of learning on the fly against players who are mostly older than him. He is naturally talented and he no doubt has the tools to make him a great player at the highest level of baseball; it will just come down to if he can become more consistent with the bat. He is slated to open the season at High-A Lynchburg and will have the opportunity this season to really solidify himself as one of the Indians best prospects.
Ranking History: #26 (2016), #31 (2015)