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Castro The Astro

Houston is trying to fix their problem. [/ lame]

The Astros shook up a bit of their roster earlier today, designating three mediocre at best players for assignment and replacing them with younger players that at the very lost offer hope. One of those players is catcher Jason Castro, the team’s consensus top prospect and the 10th overall pick in the 2008 draft.

Usually teams will look for stars when they’re picking in the top ten, but the general belief is that the Astros reached a bit and instead landed themselves a rock solid, every day backstop. There’s nothing wrong with that, productive every day catchers are damn valuable players, but when a (theoretically) rebuilding team has a pick that high, you’d like to see shoot for the moon a little more. But I digress.

As predicted, Castro has climbed the minor league ladder very quickly, shooting from High-A to Double-A in 2009 before starting this season in Triple-A. His combined batting line last year sat at .300/.380/.446, and he’s followed that up with a .265/.365/.355 (.301 BABIP) effort in 244 plate appearances this year. The data at MinorLeagueSplits.com suggests that Castro has been beating the ball into the ground with season (48.6 GB%, 17.9 LD%, 33.5 FB%), which certainly helps explain the sub-.100 ISO. Last year those totals were 37.9%, 17.3%, 44.5%, respectively.

CHONE projects a .249/.313/.351 batting line 382 plate appearances this year, which isn’t terrible for a rookie catcher. Castro’s a lefty batter that will be playing in a park better known for aiding righthanders, and there’s certainly no help to be found in the lineup around him (.276 team wOBA). The Astros have announced that it’s his job on a full-time basis, and playing time certainty counts for something. I wouldn’t expect Castro to drastically outproduce his CHONE projection, so the majority of his value comes in NL-only or deeper mixed leagues.

If you’re looking for a young and productive catcher, grab Carlos Santana if he’s still available in your league (owned in 45% of Yahoo! leagues). Dude’s got five doubles, two homers, four singles, seven walks, and three strikeouts in his nine games so far. Hard to argue with that. John Jaso (7% owned) is still hitting at a .291/.413/.425 clip and has been getting playing time at DH recently, so he’s another option as well. I’d target either before Castro, even in keeper leagues.