It’s been over two years since Rodolfo Castro made the jump straight from Double-A to the majors. He’s always been somewhat of a tantalizing player to follow, looking no further than his early time with the Pirates.
His first five hits were home runs, flashing an exciting all-or-nothing approach that has mostly defined him since then.
While he’s played in parts of three different seasons, he’s recently just played in his 150th regular season game.
In that time, Castro has a slash of .230/.307/.416 with a league average wRC+ of 100. The shining tool for him, the power, has come through, hitting 21 home runs in that span.
Last year only three second baseman hit 20+ home runs, showing the value that Castro potentially possesses.
So, after basically just a season’s worth of playing time, and the offensive upside he has shown, why does it appear that he’s been relegated to nothing more than a platoon player?
The obvious answer has been the wide margins in his ability to hit right and left-handed pitching.
Against left-handed pitching Castro has a career major league slash of .284/.354/.605 across 181 plate appearances, while sporting a wRC+ of 183. One way or another, he’s found his way into the lineup with a southpaw on the mound, for just cause.
Knowing the endgame, the Pirates still penciled Castro in against the Giants Tuesday night despite a righty starting, who was just an opener for Sean Manaea.
Facing righties have been a different story, with a .201/.281/.314 slash across 334 plate appearances. This year has been particularly rough, owning just a 49 wRC+ when turned around batting left-handed.
We’ve technically have a full season’s worth of a sample size on Castro, but yet some don’t seem quite as settled in relegating him to a platoon role despite it being over 300 plate appearances.
Rodolfo Castro got every bit of this one! pic.twitter.com/ojFtfGiIBH
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) March 23, 2023
There may actually a slight merit to that, actually. Last year was his largest sample size against right-handed pitching over a full season, at least at the major league level. It was also his best season, when it comes to wRC+ (83), while hitting from that side of the plate.
It’s still below league average, but maybe a better number, especially if he continues to hit lefties the way he has. So, basically, he had his best season hitting right-handed pitching the same year he faced it the most.
The home run splits were also surprisingly close (five vs RH, six vs LH) last year, and over the course of his career (eight vs RH, 13 vs LH).
Castro is a polarizing player, even if not for the best of reasons at times. Losing Oneil Cruz was a big blow for the 2023 Pirates team, but it did open a window to really get a long look at some of the other options they could potentially build around.
His power potential has proven to be powerful, and could give the Pirates incredible value at the position he’s best suited for.
Maybe 334 plate appearances was enough for the Pirates to make that decision. It’s also possible that more can be there.
Taking advantage of the added playing time available now can only pay off in the future, whether Castro being the answer or not. The power potential alone is worth double, and triple checking, however.
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Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.