Bernie Castro's Name Just Keeps Popping Up
Six weeks ago, Jim Bowden made his first post-season move, signing second baseman Bernie Castro. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time. Castro was a six year minor league free-agent who didn't want to return to the Orioles' farm system. He did well in a September call-up with the Birds, batting .280 in 80 at-bats with 6 stolen bases. He knew he had nothing else to prove in the minors. In 500+ games, Castro hit .280 with 238 steals [that averages out to an astounding 70 steals per 162 games] and a decent-to-good .352 on base percentage. He did well in the minors. He did well in his brief major league stint. I figured the problem was his age. He was reported as being 27, too old to be considered a real prospect. I didn't give him much additional thought until today.
The Nationals website has a small blurb about Castro's efforts in the Dominican Winter League. He's no longer just a second baseman, playing games in the outfield to enhance his versatility. Through Friday's games, Castro is batting .328 with 15 stolen bases. He's like that old Timex that John Cameron Swayze used to hawk on early TV: "He takes a licking but keeps on ticking."
The Dominican League is heavy-duty. Castro wasn't going up against class 'A' rookie hurlers. He's hit at every level, including the major leagues. The Nationals just gave up on one second baseman this weekend [Rick Short], and I don't want them to do the same to Castro. I can't find any scouting information about his defense. Maybe that's the problem, perhaps that's why he's been with four organizations in six seasons. Or it could be that he suffers from Rafael Furcal disease. About half the baseball websites indicate that Castro is 24, the other half say he's 26. Who knows which one is right. For five dollars and a cereal box top, you can get a birth certificate from his native Dominican Republic that will say whatever you want it to say.
Either way, this guy could really be a find. The Nationals have a boat-load of infielders, so Castro doesn't have much of a chance at this point. But if some of these guys get peeled away, guys like Jamie Carroll [which I really hate to say because I like him], guys like Junior Spivey [no way he stays for '06], he'll have a real chance.
Maybe Castro will be given a chance in spring training. I think he can make a difference.