Juan Castro has spent parts of 16 seasons in the major leagues, the first five of which in Los Angeles as a Dodger. In his first season, 1995, Castro collected all of five plate appearances and put up a .400 on-base percentage. In the other 15 seasons of his career, Castro has collected anywhere from one to 348 PA, and has had an OBP above .290 just once. That season came in 2009 with the Dodgers, when Castro hit .277/.311/.339 off the bench.
That 2009 season must have left quite an impression on the Dodgers, as they have signed Castro yet again on a minor league deal.
In Castro's last four seasons, which includes that relatively stellar 2009 season, Castro has amassed 536 PA and hit a whopping .210/.252/.269. That's an OPS+ of 38. Thirty eight. There are 443 major league players who have at least 500 PA in the last four seasons, and none have a lower OPS+ than Castro. Even Tony Pena Jr. was better, with a 44 OPS+, and Pena was deemed such a bad hitter that he was converted to pitching.
Garret Anderson last season hit .181/.204/.271 in 163 plate appearances for the Dodgers before he was designated for assignment, eventually to retire. In Castro's last 163 PA, he has hit .191/.228/.230. Horses have been shot with less cause.
However, Castro has made his name with his defense. He was thought to be a defensive wizard at shortstop, and that has kept him in the major leagues despite 2,834 career PA worth of a .268 OBP. The problem is that while Castro once was outstanding defensively, that is no longer the case. In the last three seasons, Castro has played 825 2/3 innings at shortstop, and has been rated below average by both UZR (8.7 runs below average) and Plus/Minus runs saved (7 runs below average). Even if we give Castro the benefit of the doubt and say he is still above average defensively, there is simply no amount of defense that can make up for his lack of offense.
Castro is well liked by the club, so much so that the Dodgers have acquired him three different times in three seasons. He is a good presence in the clubhouse, which will go a long way in determining his making the club. However, there is a name for people who command respect in the clubhouse and help provide an example for younger players. They are called coaches.
The Dodgers have turned just two triple plays since moving to Los Angeles, and the first one was started by Castro. On June 15, 1996 in Atlanta, Chipper Jones was batting with two men on in the first inning against Hideo Nomo. Jones popped a ball behind shortstop that Castro chased down, making a great basket catch. With the runners going, all it took were throws to second baseman Delino DeShields and first baseman Eric Karros to complete your standard 6-4-3 triplet killing.
Castro, who was then a 23-year old playing in his 42nd big league game, told Bob Nightengale of the Los Angeles Times, "I'm just so happy right now. I feel I'm doing a good job and can help this team. Hopefully, I can stay up here the whole year." Now, 15 years and 1,054 games later, Castro is trying to stick with the Dodgers yet again.
If Castro makes the club, not only will it be his fourth term as a Dodger, but he will wear his sixth different uniform number as a Dodger:
- 1995-96: number 60
- 2010: 33
- 2011: 13
Castro was playing third base last May 29 for the Phillies, fielding a ninth-inning ground ball, then flipping to first base to retire Florida's Ronny Paulino, the final out of Roy Halladay's perfect game.
Castro is signed to a minor league contract that will pay him a $500,000 salary if in the major leagues.
|2011 Projections - Age 39 Season|
Castro definitely has a shot at the final bench spot, but I expect Aaron Miles to beat him out for said spot. My official prediction is that Castro doesn't make the team, and eventually retires this year. If he does see time with the Dodgers this season, I'll guess .210/.250/.270 in too many plate appearances.
What is your guess for Juan Castro in 2011? Be sure to guess BA/OBP/SLG and PA.