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Hittin’ Harold provided little offensive value in 2023

Harold Castro lasted the entire season and did not live up to his nickname

Welcome to the 2023 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2023. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

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No. 55, Harold Castro: -1.5 rWAR

When the Colorado Rockies signed Harold Castro to a minor league deal for the 2023 season, it seemed like a reasonable move. Castro had been non-tendered by the Detroit Tigers after a passable .271/.300/.381 slash line in 2022 over the course of 120 games. Castro came to Colorado with the opportunity to provide defensive versatility as a super-utility option while bringing solid bat-to-ball skills. He could serve as a backup to Brendan Rodgers at second base while filling in at all three outfield positions as needed. In a limited capacity, he could have been a helpful piece to the Rockies.

Then Rodgers, Randal Grichuk, and Sean Bouchard got hurt.

Suddenly, Castro found himself promoted to a prominent regular role in the lineup, playing various positions while getting three or four at-bats per game. Unfortunately, as younger and arguably better options were waiting in the wings, Castro continued to get regular playing time while providing offense that, in the end, contributed little to nothing to the Rockies in 2023.

Hittin’ Harold

Castro’s best month came in the month of May. In 21 games, he batted .308/.338/.400 with six doubles and nine RBI. However, this would be the high point as he continued to struggle to produce results that brought value to an already struggling Rockies offense.

Castro’s 43 wRC+ is among the worst in all of baseball among players with at least 250 plate appearances (his teammate Brenton Doyle is last with 40 wRC+). Castro’s offensive profile is built around getting on base, or at the very least, putting the ball in play. This season, he struck out 66 times at a 24.4% rate, a career-high, while drawing just nine walks which translates to a 3.3% walk rate.

So, Castro failed to get on base, failed to walk, and struck out far more than he should have; but surely a man with the nickname of Hittin’ Harold was utilizing his contact skills to make up for it?

Over the course of the season, Castro sustained a 45.6% groundball rate which was the highest since 2019. While he maintained a career average in the line drive department, at 27%, his flyballs came in at 24%. The culprit for his season could be summed up in the fact he averaged the lowest exit velocity and hard-hit rate of his career. At 28.7%, Castro was hitting the ball weaker than ever before and averaged an 85.7 mph exit velocity. Across the board, he was making less contact on pitches, chasing more, and whiffing more than ever before.

Credit where credit is due, however, Castro was quite effective with runners in scoring position. He managed to bat .328/.348/.391 with 30 RBI over 70 plate appearances in that type of situation. He found ways to come up in the clutch with a base hit, but it wasn’t enough to negate his offensive shortcomings, especially against left-handed pitching where he had a .170 AVG.

Super Utility

Defensively, Castro lived up to the super utility name as he appeared at every position except for first base and catcher this season. He started the season in the outfield primarily, serving as an extra center fielder in April prior to Doyle’s promotion and Grichuk’s return in May. He then moved to second base for the majority of the year after Ryan McMahon was moved back to third base and Elehuris Montero was sent down. He logged 471 13 innings at second base, 68 games in total until Rodgers returned in August. He was serviceable, recording a -2 DRS at the position, and a -5 in total between his infield and outfield work.

By September, Castro saw his playing time decrease significantly as he was placed into the role he was signed for at the beginning of the year. Rodgers took over the majority of playing time at second base and Castro became the platoon backup against right-handed pitching.

Now what?

Some way, somehow, Castro survived the entire season on the major league roster, a reality we often struggled to fathom. He is arbitration-eligible for the next two seasons, and with young talent knocking on the door, the Rockies have to decide if they are going to stick with a veteran like Castro or move on from him via a non-tender like the Tigers did to look for someone who can provide more value when duty calls.

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