Twins

Willi Castro Has Played A Crucial Role For the Twins This Year

Photo Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Correa, Royce Lewis, Byron Buxton, and — Willi Castro?

Most people won’t expect to see the speedy utility player’s name alongside the other three superstars, but Castro’s importance to the club is every bit as vital. Castro has seemingly propelled himself into a full-time role going forward due to several factors that have become imperative to the team’s near-term success.

So, just how good has he been? What has he done particularly well? And is he carving himself a role for the long haul?

He’s Been Willi Good

Look, it will be tough to make a case that Castro will out-pace any of the Minnesota Twins’ aforementioned superstars. Even at his best, he doesn’t have the same ceiling to his potential. However, since joining the Twins, Castro has become not just a useful player but an essential one for a contending team each year.

Since signing with Minnesota before the 2023 season, Castro has put up a solid .256/.336/.410 offensive clip, which is roughly 11% better than the league average, according to wRC+.

That’s solid production, especially from someone who was supposed to be a secondary player. However, Castro may be outplaying his expected numbers by a considerable amount. He has a .331 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) in the last two seasons, which suggests some good fortune based on the raw mechanics of his hits.

Where Castro has undeniably been an asset is with his glove. While playing across the diamond, he boasted an incredibly strong range (87th percentile) with a solid arm (81st percentile) and sound judgment.

Put Him Anywhere

In that same vein, Castro doesn’t feel overstretched at any defensive position and comes across as someone familiar enough to take over for weeks at a time if that’s what the Twins need.

And the Twins have needed that for essentially the entire length of this season. When Lewis went down halfway through the first game, Castro filled in as a regular at third base. When Correa had an intercostal strain for two weeks, Willi was the starting shortstop. And when Buxton went on the IL with knee soreness, Castro was the best option in center field.

He’s been a Swiss Army Knife whose utility has been instrumental to the team’s success, especially with a manager who loves to mix and match his lineups based on the opposing pitchers. It must be a relief for Rocco Baldelli to know he can plug someone in anywhere and expect them to either excel or hold their own no matter who they’re facing on the mound.

Castro has been right about league-average against right-handed pitchers, albeit with far less power (.690 OPS, 101 wRC+). He has feasted on southpaw pitching, though. Willi is hitting at a .352/.386/.500 clip, which is 55% better than the league average.

He has started as many games for the Twins as anyone this year, but Castro also profiles as someone who could be a useful late-inning reinforcement as a pinch hitter. He’s particularly useful against left-handed relievers, where he owns a .356 batting average (albeit in a small sample of 17 at-bats). That could play into his role with the club going forward if cornerstone-level players start to populate the starting lineup.

How Does He Fit In Going Forward?

As valuable as Castro has been over the last two seasons, it’s hard to picture the Twins extending any sort of offer on an extension that would keep him on the roster for years to come. He’s under team control through the end of the 2025 season, which would be his age-28 campaign. The Twins would be happy to work with a 29-year-old Castro, but how would they feel about him as he enters his 30s and starts to lose a tick?

The club already has a crowded picture around the infield for the next few years, with Lewis and Correa anchoring the left side and some combination of Edouard Julien, Brooks Lee, and José Miranda penciled into the right side of the depth chart. Buxton, Austin Martin, Trevor Larnach, and Emmanuel Rodriguez will likely be with the club in the outfield through the next few seasons, leaving little wiggle room for Willi to play as a building-block type player in the coming years.

But then again, he’s been underestimated coming into each of the last two seasons and has proven to be a vital cog in their operation. Who’s to say what another year of critical defensive flexibility and above-average offense can do to his standing?

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