Willi Castro: Tigers 2020 Rookie Of The Year
The Tigers made a deadline deal with the division-rival Indians in 2018, and while it didn't generate national headlines, it did deliver Detroit's top rookie of 2020 to the organization.
At the time, shortstop Willi Castro was in the midst of a rough introduction to Double-A. Cleveland was willing to deal him for Leonys Martin and Kyle Dowdy as it chased down and eventually captured the American League Central division title.
While Castro had been more of a second-tier prospect for the Indians, his physical projection in his 6-foot-1 frame was enough to capture scouts’ attention.
“He's sneaky tall. You don't expect him to be that big until you get up on him,” a scout for a National League team said. “That's when you use that projection of his swing path that you saw as a young kid, and then seeing it later. I didn't get a chance to see him all the way, progression-wise, but you were able to see how that strength translated into what it is.”
"What it is" turned out to be a scintillating rookie season for the Tigers. The 23-year-old, switch-hitting Castro batted .349/.381/.550 with six home runs in 36 games.
It appears that Castro, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, had matured into his projectable frame, all while bringing stability to the Tigers' infield.
Castro's future position is still a debate among scouts. He played mostly shortstop with some third base in 2020. Some believe he is best suited for second base. Castro appears capable offensively at either middle infield position.
Castro led all Detroit hitters with a .932 OPS, and the confidence stemming from his success helped breathe life into the Tigers’ lineup
“Where he's probably confident, (pitchers) don't know him very well,” the NL scout said. “They haven't had a chance to really learn what he can and can't do yet. And he's got physical ability.
"If you could extrapolate out (to 162 games), would I think he would hit .330 with 25 home runs this year? No. But from what he's done, good for him.”
— Among several pitchers in consideration for Tigers’ rookie of the year, righthander Bryan Garcia’s case was among the strongest. In addition to an impressive return from Tommy John surgery, Garcia generated a 1.74 ERA and 1.26 WHIP over 26 relief appearances.
— As one of the Tigers' most touted rookie arms, righthander Casey Mize's introduction to the big leagues may not have delivered the impact he was hoping for, but the end result still left room for optimism. Over seven starts, Mize posted a 6.99 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 13 walks in 28.1 innings.