Pittsburgh Pirates: Diego Castillo Paying Immediate Dividends For Altoona Curve

Photo Credit: Rob Lynn/Altoona Curve

 Sometimes it's the small trade that no one thinks of that can make the biggest impact. For the Pittsburgh Pirates during this past trade deadline, it's the deal that no one saw coming that has paid the most immediate impact.

With the high demand on relief pitchers, it wasn't a surprise that the Pirates traded as many of them as they could afford to move which included Clay Holmes. What was surprising was his return, as the righty had far from a consistent season.

Coming back in exchange for Holmes was Hoy Jun Park and Diego Castillo, two middle infielders for the New York Yankees that were enjoying good offensive seasons but stuck in a log jam in their previous system at their position.

Park was raking in Triple-A and got the call to the majors and has been playing a super utility role with the Pirates, getting time all over the diamond.

For all the players that the Pirates acquired over the trade deadline that is still working their way through the minors, Castillo has adjusted to his new organization better than anyone else and is quickly showing his potential as contact oriented, versatile infielder.

In 24 games this year with the Altoona Curve, the 23-year old Castillo has produced a batting average of .263 to go along with an .773 OPS, slugging five home runs and driving in 14 RBIs.

He's done an amazing job of putting the ball into play, striking out just 8% of his plate appearances. His batting average of balls in play (BABIP) is a tad low (.244), meaning that his .263 average could increase if his BABIP evens out to what most consider to be the average mark of .300.

Castillo didn't hit for much power until this season, as he had hit eight total professional home runs before 2021. He had 11 with the Somerset Patriots before coming over to the Curve and adding five more to that total.

You can thank Castillo's newfound ability to turn on the ball for his newfound power. Up to this season, Castillo hadn't pulled the ball to left field at a rate of over 40%. So far with Altoona he has a pull rate of 44.7% (48.4% with Somerset), which is nearly ten points higher than his career average going into this year.

He hasn't let trying to turn on the ball more impact his contact percentage, striking out only 8% of the time with Altoona.

Defensively, Castillo has bounced all around the infield seeing a good amount of time at each position with the Curve. Castillo has played 67 innings at second base (one error, 23 chances), 38 1/3 at third base (perfect in 11 chances), and 94 at shortstop (two errors, 33 chances).

He has the majority at the time at shortstop, but Altoona has found a rotation that works for them that moves him around the infield and gets everyone else playing time (Castillo is seeing work at second base as Ji-Hwan Bae gets additionally time in the outfield).

His addition also helps the Curve ease back in Oneil Cruz, who has returned but only as a designated hitter. 

Castillo is in an interesting position. He'll be eligible fo the rule-5 draft for the third time this offseason, but with the progress he has taken at the level he's done it at, to go along with his versatility, it's highly unlikely he'll go unclaimed again.

Of course, he seems like an easy addition to the Pirates 40-man roster this offseason anyways and someone who could make it to Pittsburgh at some point next year. It's interesting that Fangraphs ranked Castillo right behind Rodolfo Castro because I believe the two could be fighting over playing time at second base at some point in 2022.

Castillo is starting to show some encouraging power numbers, without sacrificing making contact. Castro may have more power, but has a lot more swing and miss to his game (29 K% in the majors, 20.1% in Altoona this year), maybe making Castillo the more long term candidate on the roster.

How other newly acquired prospects are performing in the system

Jack Suwinski, OF Altoona

Suwinski came over and showed exactly why the Pirates acquired him in the Adam Frazier deal, hitting a home run in his first game with Altoona. He hit a slump  and went the next 19 games without a home run before launching two over the fence on August 4.

In 23 games now with Altoona, the 23-year old Suwinski has posted a .244 average with an .758 OPS. What is going to make and break Suwinski as a prospect will be him keeping his strikeouts under control. Right now he has struck out 28.2% of the time he has walked to the plate with the Curve.

Abrahan Gutierrez, C Bradenton

It will be interesting to see how Gutierrez performs and moves through the system, if anything because of how sought after he was by Ben Cherington. He was a part of the original trade package for Tyler Anderson. Once that fell apart and they looked elsewhere to trade Anderson, Cherington circled back and made a completely different trade to acquire Gutierrez.

Thus far he hasn't disappointed and got off to almost as good a start as possible with Bradenton, notching a double in his first at bat with his new organization.

In his time with the Marauders, Gutierrez has a batting slash of .293/.420/.390 with four extra base hits and an 14 BB%. He also sits in the top ten in the Low-A Southeast in OPS when you combine his time with Clearwater.

Who do you think has been the best player acquired by the Pirates during the trade deadline? Let us know in the comment section below, subscribe to the site with the link at the top of the page and follow us on Twitter @__Murphy88 and @SportBlogMurphy.





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