Willi Castro (MIN): 2-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, SB.
Back in 2020, it seemed like the Tigers had a long-term piece in Willi Castro.
During the COVID-shortened season, Castro hit .349 with a .931 OPS in 36 games and 140 plate appearances as a 23-year-old. Castro showed some surprising power with six home runs and he also collected 24 RBI that season as well.
Granted, plate discipline was an issue, as he struck out 27.1% of the time while only walking 5% of the time. Additionally, he didn’t steal a single base in 2020, which limited his value for fantasy purposes. Nonetheless, Castro seemed like a piece that the Tigers could depend on during their rebuilding process.
Unfortunately, things went south for Castro at the plate over the next two years. Castro hit .220 in 2021 and .241 in 2022 and also posted OPS numbers of .624 and .651 in 2021 and 2022, respectively. In 237 games over that two-year span, he struck out 191 times while only 38 times. Lastly, his power plateaued, as he only hit 17 total home runs, and averaged a SLG of .359 over the past two seasons as well.
Thus, it’s not a surprise that he was non-tendered by the Tigers this past offseason (along with many other names like Harold Castro and Jeimer Candelario), as his lackluster performance over the past two years didn’t spur any confidence in Detroit’s new President of Baseball Operations Scott Harris, who took over for Al Avila last September.
With little power or speed on the basepaths, the best deal Castro could find this offseason was a Minor League one with the Minnesota Twins. It was expected that Castro would be a bench bat who could fill in every now and then. However, injuries to Carlos Correa, Jorge Polanco, Nick Gordon, and Max Kepler have thrust Castro into a more regular role as of late.
And so far, Castro is taking advantage.
In 40 games and 103 plate appearances, Castro is slashing .258/.324/.452 while posting a .776 OPS. He has hit four home runs and has accumulated eight stolen bases on 10 attempts. The strikeout rate is still high (28.2%) and the walk rate is still low (4.9%), but he looks more like his 2020 self with some extra added stolen base ability to boot.
The 26-year-old utility player is available in nearly 98 percent of Yahoo leagues and 99 percent of ESPN leagues, as of Sunday. He also carries multi-position versatility, as he is not just eligible at every OF position, but 2B, SS, and 3B as well.
With Royce Lewis expected back soon, Castro could see some time diminish in the next couple of weeks, which would deflate his long-term value as a fantasy hitter. That said, Castro is proving to Twins fans and fantasy managers that he still has something left in the tank, and that was on full display on Saturday after his two-homer, one-stolen-base performance against the Blue Jays at Target Field.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Jonathan India (CIN): 3-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 5 RBI.
The Reds are surging in the NL Central (they just passed the Cubs in the standings), and India is a big reason why. India is hitting .291 with a .839 OPS in May, and he has four of his five total home runs this month as well. Granted his strikeout rate has gone up this month from 14.5% in April (17 in 117 PAs) to 20.6% in May (22 in 107 PAs). However, his more aggressive approach has helped him tap more into his power, which was more absent in April, as evidenced by his one home run and sub-.400 slugging percentage during that first full month of play.
Edouard Julien (MIN): 3-5, 2 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
The Twins have continued to add more position players to the IL this month, and there is a dire need for hitters to help turn around their offense, which ranks 20th in OPS as of Sunday. Julien has been one of those hitters, as he has four home runs and a .864 OPS in 54 plate appearances. Primarily filling in for Polanco at the keystone, Julien doesn’t hit for a high average, as he has only a .239 mark. Additionally, his 33.3% K rate negates his 9.3% walk rate quite a bit. However, he brings a lot of upside to the keystone position as a streamer, as he is rostered in only 4% of Yahoo leagues and 1% of ESPN leagues.
Zach McKinstry (DET): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI, SB.
The Tigers continue to gain ground in a weak AL Central, and McKinstry at the top of the batting order has been key to Detroit’s march to .500. The 28-year-old Central Michigan product is hitting .291 with a .854 OPS while posting a stellar 0.89 BB/K ratio. While he ranks in the 43rd percentile in hard-hit rate, he is actually barreling balls at a surprising clip, as evidenced by his 11.7% barrel rate and four home runs this year. He also has eight stolen bases for the season in 43 games. McKinstry truly does it all as a leadoff hitter for the Tigers, and he’s still available in 96% of Yahoo leagues and 98% of ESPN leagues too.
Jeremy Peña (HOU): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Peña’s 2023 is looking a lot like his rookie season: some surprising power but a whole lot of whiffs in the process. On Saturday, Peña hit his seventh home run of the year, but he is still striking out 23.1% of the time while also only walking 3.4% of the time as well. While the power tool is still there for Peña, those numbers have declined a bit as well. His average exit velocity is down; his barrel rate is down; and his hard-hit rate is down.
Peña is still a cornerstone piece of this Astros team, and he’s only 25. That being said, this hasn’t been the sophomore season from Peña that Astros fans and fantasy managers who roster him hoped for.
Max Muncy (LAD): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
On one end, Muncy is only hitting .205, which is better than his .196 mark a year ago, but still a killer in five-category leagues that feature batting averages. On the other hand, he is posting a .854 OPS and has 16 home runs and 37 RBI, so he is still producing in a major way in those other two categories, and in leagues where batting average isn’t a category. Then again, his K rate is 29.9%, which would be a career-high if the season ended today. But, his barrel rate is 19.6%, which would also be a career-high if the season ended today.
Safe to say, Muncy continues to be an enigma this season, which makes him difficult to talk about and fully evaluate in fantasy circles.
Brendan Donovan (STL): 1-2, HR, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB, SB.
Donovan hit his fifth home run on Saturday against Cleveland, which ties his mark from 2022 in nearly 300 fewer plate appearances. There’s been a slight power boost from Donovan, as his barrel rate of 6.3% is nearly three ticks higher than a season ago. Also, Donovan has been a bit more active on the basepaths, as his four stolen bases are double his mark from a season ago. He is also doing this without sacrificing much in plate discipline, as he is still sporting a 0.74 BB/K ratio. Donovan is becoming a more intriguing player fantasy-wise in his sophomore season, despite the crowded position player situation in St. Louis.
Harold Ramírez (TB): 2-5, HR, R, 2 RBI.
First Yandy Díaz, now Ramírez. Launch angle improvement is the “trend” in Tampa Bay, and that was on full display on Saturday as Ramírez hit his eighth home run of the year. Ramírez is averaging a launch angle of 8.8 degrees this year, which is four degrees higher than his average a season ago. As a result, the power numbers have followed. He has two more home runs this year in 280 fewer plate appearances; his barrel rate is up 2.3 points; and his slugging is 110 points higher than a season ago. Whatever Rays hitting coaches Chad Mottola, Dan DeMent, and Brady North are doing, they need to keep it up, especially after the improvements in launch angle from Diaz and Ramírez.
Cavan Biggio (TOR): 1-3, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Saturday’s game was a perfect capsule of Biggio’s season, and maybe career thus far. Biggio did hit his fourth home run of the year, but he only went 1-for-3 and had a strikeout as well. For the season, Biggio is hitting .167 in only 78 plate appearances. Thus, it appears that Biggio has finally lost favor in Toronto, and he could be on his way out sooner rather than later, especially in the wake of other veterans like the Yankees’ Aaron Hicks and Royals’ Hunter Dozier being designated for assignment recently.
Hopes have always been high for Biggio, thanks to his intriguing toolset and name. That said, at 28 years old, it’s safe to say that he may just be a bench player at best.
Nolan Jones (COL): 2-2, 2B, R, 2 RBI.
The Rockies haven’t handled Jones well this season, as he was called up on April 12th only to be optioned back down to Triple-A Albuquerque four days later without playing a single game. Colorado brought him up again on May 26th to replace Brenton Doyle on the roster, and so far, Jones is showing the Rockies that he doesn’t need to be optioned back.
On Saturday, Jones went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI in the Rockies’ 10-7 win over the Mets. Jones will always be a high-strikeout hitter, as he is still posting a K rate of 37.5% in his short eight-plate appearance sample. However, he brings some power potential, as he hit 12 home runs with the Isotopes in 39 games and 187 plate appearances.
Colorado is 23-30, which is still good for last place in the NL West. Hence, giving Jones an extended shot for at least a month or two would help the Rockies understand what kind of player they have on their hands long-term. On a fantasy end, Jones is available in 93% of Yahoo leagues and 99% of ESPN leagues, and he may be worth picking up for now, with the hope that he won’t be optioned again so quickly like his last call-up.
Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)