Cleveland Indians 2016 Top Prospects: #30 Willi Castro

Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Indians 2016 Top Prospects: #30 Willi Castro

Today we begin our countdown of the Top 30 Prospects in the Cleveland Indians system for the upcoming 2016 season. Number 30 on the list is young shortstop Willi Castro.

Who is Willi Castro?

Castro was originally signed by the Cleveland Indians as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic back in July 2013 for $850,000 (a pretty substantial amount for the Tribe).  He’s a switch-hitting middle infielder who will turn 19 in April.  He has some baseball bloodlines as his father Liliano Castro played minor league ball for a couple years and has been a minor league instructor with the New York Mets.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Like most young Latino players, Castro is still very raw. He’s mostly about projection at this point as his nice 6’1” frame and swing give hope that he can hit for some average and while also generating some pop.  He has some speed stealing 20 bases in just 67 games for the Short-Season Mahoning Valley Scrappers.  He’s also shown the ability to put the ball in play as he posted a mere 10.3% strikeout rate in 2015, a tool that helped him be ranked as a top 100 prospect in baseball by Fangraph’s KATOH system, which I discussed last month

More from Away Back Gone

Defensively, he’s played both second base and shortstop for the Tribe.  He played both positions in 2014 for the Tribe’s Rookie Affiliate but played shortstop exclusively last year for the Scrappers.  He’s very athletic and most feel he can stick at shortstop; however, he could always move off the position if the need arises or he looks blocked as shortstop is one of the deepest positions in the Tribe’s system at the moment. His athleticism should allow him to move to second or third base in addition to the outfield.

While many have hopes he can develop some pop down the line, to this point he’s shown virtually none. In 110 minor league games, he has just three home runs and 23 extra base hits.  And while he’s done a great job of putting the ball in play and limiting strikeouts, he also has yet to demonstrate the ability to draw walks. He has just 16 walks in 471 professional plate appearances (3.4% walk-rate).  For someone who was just 18 years old all of last year, neither of these two flaws are really anything to be too concerned with at this stage; however, until he starts to demonstrate more plate discipline it’s hard to rank him too high (for now).

Where Does He Go From Here?

Not even 19 years old yet, it’s pretty remarkable that he has two seasons stateside under his belt already.  The Cleveland Indians have been aggressive with him to this point, likely due to his advanced feel for the game, and I expect that to continue in 2016.  I expect him to open with the Class-A Lake County Captains, which is pretty impressive considering he’ll still be only 18 years old on Opening Day. Given his age and somewhat limited offensive output to this point I expect him to be with the Captains all year as well.

Next: Indians Prospects That Just Missed the Top 30 List

Bottom line here, there may not be a prospect in the bottom half of my top 30 list that has the potential to rise as much as Castro this season.  I may only have him as the #30 prospect for now but with his potential and skill set, he’s a guy Tribe fans should keep an eye on.  He’ll look to build off a solid 2015 season where he hit .264 with a .304 on-base percentage.  Willi Castro, one of the more intriguing and exciting young prospects in the Tribe’s deep system.