2014 Fantasy Baseball: Jason Castro Is Doing Bad Things More
Looking back at my preseason rankings, I had Jason Castro 12th among fantasy baseball catchers this season. I was a believer in the high-teens HR power and although he struck out too much, his popup rate was minimal. A few months has changed a lot, since Castro is now being ranked anywhere from 15th to 20th on fantasy catcher lists. Once relevant as a starting catcher in standard leagues, Castro is clinging onto two-catcher league value. What went wrong?
Well, Castro got worse at the things he was already bad at. Closing in on 27 years of age, maybe it was a stretch to expect him to get significantly better, but so far, everything has gotten worse.
The whiffs and K’s were bad last season, and weren’t great the year before, but now they are just beaming red with danger.
Unsurprisingly, the contact has dropped pretty much across the board.
It’s not really a secret that Castro has always had contact issues during his time in the majors. Interestingly enough, the strikeouts weren’t an issue during his time in the minors. But that was then and this is now. And the now is a carry over from a problem that began last year:
Fastballs have not been kind. Up in the zone in particular:
2014 Whiff Percentage 2013 Whiff Percentage
Last season’s zone percentage whiffs on fastballs are practically a carbon copy of 2014. I guess not all that much has changed. Maybe it has all just caught up to Jason. He can’t get to the hard stuff up in the zone. However, he did manage to get away with it in 2013. When Castro made contact last year, it was likely hard contact. An .ISO of .209, an above average line drive rate (25.2%), and a strong HR/FB ratio, along with a miniscule 1.8 IFFB% and a little luck gave Castro a .351 BABIP and a respectable .276 batting average. His above average walk rate worked well in OBP leagues as well. But all that is now gone.
The strikeouts and lack of contact is simply too much to overcome. The HR/FB is still respectable, but no longer a standout strength. His batted ball distance (FB+HR) went for an average of 291 feet last season, but is currently at 280 feet. The line drives have dipped below league average, yet Castro’s BABIP is .293 (.310 career). The walks are also down. And in a time where automatic outs such as strikeouts are such a problem, Castro could really use that top-10 IFFB percentage he had in 2013. Yet, that too is no longer. The popups are still below average, but they have increased by four percent, which is only adding to the automatic outs.
There are many negatives. Too many. But on Castro’s side is time. Catching prospect Max Stassi isn’t lighting up the minors, so his call-up doesn’t appear to be imminent. There is also the positive of Castro’s spot in the lineup. He is still batting third or fourth, allowing him more to garner more at-bats and have a chance to produce important fantasy counting stats. Volume may be the only reason Castro is still fantasy relevant in deeper leagues. If he gets dropped down in the lineup…yikes.
Coming into the spring, there was a belief in Castro’s power and lack of popups. The thought process was that these positives would get him through the negatives and the production this year would be similar to that of last. More of the same as they say. And there has been more of the same, but it involves all the bad of Jason Castro. The whiffs, the lack of contact, the struggles with hard stuff up in the zone. Castro’s flaws have given him very little room for error. Even if some of the power comes back, the lack of contact to this extreme will always keep his fantasy stock down. In standard leagues, it would be unsurprising to see Castro already on the cutting room floor.