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Let's Make A Deal: Jose Castillo

26 year-old Pirates infielder Jose Castillo hasn't exactly asked for a trade, but you get the impression he would welcome one.  He doesn't have a position with the Bucs after Freddy Sanchez returned from the DL Sunday.

Castillo has played mostly second base in his Major League career.  While he's played outfield in winter ball, his bat doesn't play there unless he's an above-average center field glove.  That seems very doubtful.  He was raised a shortstop in the minors, but started playing second base in Double A in '03 when Pokey Reese got injured.  His work at short had been lousy, and soon he was to be the Bucs' Second Baseman of the Future.

I asked Jake at Bucco Blog about Castillo's defense.  His description: "He's a natural shortstop without the range anymore. Soft hands, better than average arm, lightning quick pivots, and better than average 2B range."  Jake mentioned that Castillo plays hard and could win a Gold Glove one day.  This is not a starry-eyed Bucs fan speaking, as Jake has been plenty critical of the Pirates. 

In 2004 Castillo was able to make the jump from Double A to the bigs and break camp with the team, albeit in a second-base timeshare with Bobby Hill.  Soon enough, he was playing every day.  Castillo didn't hit much in his rookie season but finished strong.  Skipping Triple A may have stunted his development, however.

He was the starting 2B to begin 2005, but a strained oblique cut into his season initially.  As a sophomore, he improved his SLG to .416 but a torn knee ligament in August ended his season. 

The knee was fine to start 2006.  After a weak April, Castillo had the best month of his life in May, hitting .366/.413/.634 with 7 home runs.  He never managed to slug .400 in any other month last year.  Castillo was benched in August, apparently because he threw his arms up in disgust when a runner failed to score from second on his single.

This winter, shortstop Jack Wilson called Castillo out, saying he'd rather partner with Freddy Sanchez at second.  Castillo lost some weight before the season but also lost the third base job to Jose Bautista.

At this point, Castillo's stock might be even lower than Jorge Cantu's.  At least Cantu has translated his potential into results for one season.  I named the Braves, Mets, and Rockies as reasonable fits for Cantu earlier.  Castillo is probably in the same boat, and the Braves did express interest in him when working out the Mike Gonzalez deal.

Castillo is still young enough to step it up to his 75th percentile PECOTA projection - .275/.329/.440.  But that's still not much better than Ron Belliard, who was freely available this winter.  Either Littlefield will send him off for a pittance just to get him off the team, or he'll continue to warm the bench for the Bucs.  Outside of a single month, he hasn't really justified a starting role.



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