After a 2013 season where he hit .276/.350/.485 and was named to the All-Star team, Jason Castro is likely the most intriguing player on the Houston Astros this year. His progression in 2014 is crucial for Houston, and that begins in Spring Training.
Castro has impressive plate discipline and solid contact skills. He showed some nice gap-to-gap power in 2013, hitting 35 doubles, and even tacked on 18 homeruns. Those are very good power numbers for a catcher. Defensively, Castro has improved tremendously over the years, but he is still roughly league average behind the plate.
There have been talks that the Astros will try Castro at 1B a little bit this Spring. The team has an obvious hole at the position, and keeping Castro’s bat in the lineup while occasionally giving him a break from catching, makes a lot of sense. However, do not expect this to be a permanent move. Castro’s numbers are great for a catcher, but would be average at 1B. A lot of his value comes from being a good hitter, while playing a premium position.
The Astros are in obvious rebuild mode right now, and lack legitimate talent at the big league level. That being said, they have one of the top minor league systems in all of baseball. Their farm system is littered with potential everyday studs, so the future appears to be bright. When these top level prospects start making their way to the big leagues in the next couple of seasons, Castro will be an immediate mentor for the players. He is known as a great clubhouse leader, and that will certainly be huge when there are tons of rookies looking for veteran guidance.
It will be important for Castro to prove that his 2013 season was not a fluke. He is a former first round pick, so the talent is likely real. That being said, past injuries and ineffectiveness in the minors, have some wondering whether he can become a franchise type player. Castro can quickly quiet those whispers with a strong start to the 2014 season.
Castro plays a very valuable defensive position and was a legitimate middle of the order bat for the Astros in 2013. He is already an extremely important player for the Astros, but another All-Star season in 2014 would prove his worth as an elite level catcher.