Friday, October 22 2021

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Yandy Diaz drilled a first-pitch two-seam fastball from Detroit Tigers reliever Jason Foley in the eighth inning.

Coming off the bat at 110.4 mph, the ball bounced to second baseman Willi Castro. He made a sliding play to rob Diaz of a single and then started an inning-ending double play with shortstop Niko Goodrum and first baseman Jonathan Schoop.

“That feed today, everyone will overlook,” Goodrum said after Thursday’s 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the series opener. “To make a sliding (play), turn around off your knee and throw a perfect feed, like that’s not easy. But it’ll get overlooked. Those things I make sure I tell him so he knows where he’s come from and how good that feed was.”

Castro — often chastised for his poor defense — hasn’t made an error since July.

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Detroit Tigers second baseman Willi Castro (9) gets the force out against Milwaukee Brewers catcher Omar Narvaez (10) during seventh inning action Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021.

Detroit Tigers second baseman Willi Castro (9) gets the force out against Milwaukee Brewers catcher Omar Narvaez (10) during seventh inning action Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021.

Based on metrics alone, Castro is one of the worst second basemen in baseball. His minus-10 defensive runs saved ties him with Arizona Diamondbacks’ Andy Young for second-worst in MLB, behind Oakland Athletics’ Jed Lowrie (minus-12 DRS).

Castro also owns a minus-1 DRS over 19 games at shortstop, a spot the 24-year-old aimed to lock down at the beginning of this season, following a fourth-place finish in 2020 American League Rookie of the Year voting. The Tigers quickly moved him to second base and later to the outfield. Across his seven games in left field, he has a minus-2 DRS.

But the Tigers also incorporate the eye test to evaluate their players.

“I think he’s gotten better,” manager AJ Hinch said this week. “I think it’s been a productive summer for him, albeit different than what we anticipated going into the season. His hands are handling the ball more cleanly, his throwing has gotten a lot better. I think he’s settled in and more comfortable at second base with the depths that we play and the different throws that he’s asked to make from different areas of second base. Turning the double play has been better.

“Overall, I think he’s taken a step forward defensively based on where we were at the beginning of the season.”

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Detroit Tigers' Willi Castro heads to first on a base on balls during the third inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Detroit.

Detroit Tigers’ Willi Castro heads to first on a base on balls during the third inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Detroit.

As Castro improves his defense with the help of third base coach Ramon Santiago, who played the infield for 13 MLB seasons from 2002-14, his hardships in the batter’s box have continued.

In 2020, Castro hit .349 with six home runs and 24 RBIs over 36 games. This season, he carries a .213 average, nine home runs, 37 RBIs, 23 walks and 106 strikeouts over 117 games. His 39.9% chase rate has doomed him.

To be a part of the Tigers’ future, Castro needs to improve his production.

“It’s been a mental grind for him at the plate, trying to figure out his comfort zone and trying to figure out how to be productive,” Hinch said. “We’ve had dual developments going on. While he’s grinding away on one side, we’re wearing him out on the defensive side. I think it’s been a taxing year for him. It’s not a zero year or an empty year for him, but he’s got a lot to work on in order to continue at this level.”

What about Paredes?

Competing in 71 games for Triple-A Toledo, infielder Isaac Paredes is hitting .268 with 11 home runs, 42 RBIs, 55 walks and 45 strikeouts. He has taken the field at third base (29 starts), second base (21 starts) and shortstop (12 starts), the result of his defensive versatility.

Since the Tigers demoted Paredes to Toledo on Aug. 18, the 22-year-old has a .295 batting average, six home runs, 17 RBIs, 27 walks and 15 strikeouts. His plate discipline continues to shine in the minor leagues, even though it hasn’t always translated to the big leagues in his limited opportunities.

“His numbers have all been really good,” Hinch said. “It’s crowded up here where the playing time is and where the opportunities are, but if he can continue to do that, he’s going to continue to open eyes as to what the future holds for him.”

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Isaac Paredes of the Detroit Tigers turns a double play in the third inning against the New York Yankees during a spring training game on March 12, 2021, at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.

Isaac Paredes of the Detroit Tigers turns a double play in the third inning against the New York Yankees during a spring training game on March 12, 2021, at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.

Paredes has played 14 games for the Tigers in 2021, hitting .256 (10-for-39) with one home run, four RBIs, six walks and five strikeouts. He went to the injured list July 22 with a right hit strain, and upon his Aug. 18 return, the organization sent him to the Mud Hens.

“It’s been a broken year for him in terms of some opportunity here, some opportunity in Triple-A. Health here, health there,” Hinch said. “But that’s the type of month (in Toledo) that we look for and why we think he has such promise.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers’ Willi Castro has ‘a lot to work on’ to stick

Source: Yahoo Sports

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