Willi Castro Continues Indians’ Shortstop Lineage

Shortstop is not exactly a position of need for the Indians, but that hasn’t stopped the organization from successfully developing a stable of impressive young shortstops behind all-star Francisco Lindor.

The Indians’ big league roster in 2017 included not only Lindor but also Jose Ramirez and Erik Gonzalez, who both had backgrounds at shortstop. In November, the Indians added three more shortstops to the 40-man roster to shield them from the Rule 5 draft: Willi Castro, Yu-Cheng Chang and Eric Stamets.

Castro, a 20-year-old switch-hitter, took a huge step forward at high Class A Lynchburg in 2017, hitting .290/.337/.424 with 11 home runs and 19 stolen bases in 123 games. He ranked second in the Carolina League with 136 hits and made the league’s midseason and postseason all-star teams.

“We are excited about Willi’s development, and especially the step he took at Lynchburg under (manager) Tony Mansolino and (hitting coach) Kevin Howard,” director of player development James Harris said.

Castro, who was born in Puerto Rico but signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, has reached double figures in stolen bases in each of his last three seasons. Like many young players, he’s still a bit of a free swinger who walks infrequently.

The Indians are excited to see that Castro still is maturing physically. He played last season at 6-foot-1, 164 pounds.

“Willi worked to increase his athleticism and matured into his body at 20 years old,” Harris said, “which was evident (because) his range and change of direction at shortstop improved.”

Castro’s continuing maturation also produced career highs with 11 home runs, a .135 isolated slugging percentage and a .758 OPS.

Like most switch-hitters, Castro needs to continue refining his righthanded swing because he receives fewer reps from that side. His platoon split in 2017 indicates improvement—he hit .289 from the left side and .292 from the right side.

Castro turns 21 in April and figures to start 2018 at Double-A Akron.

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