Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jason Castro in the AFL Rising Stars Game

So I finally got around to watching the Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars Game (the All-Star game for the AFL). Jason Castro played 5 1/2 innings and came up to bat twice. Here are my impressions of a VERY small sample size.
  • First at-bat: Castro swings at the first pitch he sees, a slow curve down in the zone. Castro hits a weak grounder to second for the second out of the inning. His bat looked very slow going through the zone, almost a little heavy.
  • Third inning: Castro hosed Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown at second, popping up quickly, making a clean transfer and putting the throw in a good spot for shortstop Triunfel. Just showed why Castro is considered such a good defensive player, especially since Brown is one of the faster players in the AFL.
  • Second at-bat: Castro sees four pitches, swinging at an inside slider on a 1-2 count that he hits to the second baseman again. Castro's swing didn't seem as long as in his first at-bat, but it definitely didn't have any speed getting through the zone.
  • Fourth inning: Castro blocks a breaking pitch nicely in the dirt, but the Cub's Starlin Castro took off for second base. Castro had to get the ball and make a quick throw, which was not good. The ball sailed on Castro too far to the right of the second baseman and skittering into center field.
  • Sixth inning: A's speedster Jemile Weeks led a double steal. Castro took a fastball down in the zone and fired a laser to third but Weeks beat it by a hair. It was definitely a bang-bang play.
And that's it. Castro was supposed to come up in the bottom of the sixth, but was lifted for pinch-hitter Travis McBride, a catcher from the Cleveland organization.

All in all, it was a mixed bag for the Astros top prospect. Castro did not look good at all at the plate, showing a heavy swing and topping both balls he made contact with to the right side of the infield. His defensive play was spot on, making a good throw for one caught stealing and one bad throw on the Starlin Castro play. The third was kind of a toss-up, as it wasn't Castro's fault the pitcher didn't hold the runner on second better.

I put up this little study on The Crawfish Boxes the other day, noting how many innings Castro has played in the past few years. He was sent home shortly after this all-star game due to fatigue, but should be ready to go for spring training in February. Here's what I put at TCB:

The following are rough estimates on the number of innings played for Castro in the past five seasons. You can see the huge spike in the season he got drafted. It's also worth noting that for the first few years there, those innings were spread out through the entire year, as Castro played in the Alaska Baseball League, the Area Code Games, the Cape Cod League and other events throughout his career that made playing baseball year-round a possibility.

2005 - ~500 (mostly infield)

2006 - 673 (mostly first base)

2007 - 536 (mostly first base)

2008 - 900 (first season full-time at catcher)

2009 - 1,100 (including spring training, minors, World Cup and AFL)

Castro is used to playing year-round, but tired out right around the time he hit the 1,000 inning mark. The Astros top two catchers last season combined to catch 1,175 innings. Maybe Castro just needs to get his legs underneath him. He's only caught for two seasons now, much like Posey and should be fresher than someone who caught all through high school and college. Still, if we're thinking of using Castro at some point next season, it's worth asking if he'll have anything in the tank when he is called up.

No other Astros were in the AFL Rising Stars, but one former Aggie did play. Atlanta Braves shortstop prospect Brandon Hicks was inserted in the game in the sixth inning. Hicks made a couple sterling defensive plays, but struck out and hit a grounder to third in two at-bats. This was pretty much what he did at A&M, so it's no surprise. The scouts are still split on whether he'll ever have enough bat to make the majors, but man, can he throw the leather around.

One final note: I realize this blog hasn't bee updated much since September. That's mostly because I've been working a LOT for the Eagle and have been bumped up to a regular writer for The Crawfish Boxes. In addition to my regular job and the new gig of being a dad, I just haven't had the time to do proper analyses of prospects here. My schedule will thin out some and you will get more posts on the minor leagues. Just bear with me.