REPORT: Twins To Sign Jason Castro
Image courtesy of Kim Klement // USA TodayYahoo Sport's Jeff Passan reports that the two sides have agreed upon a three-year, $24.5 million contract.
As Nick Nelson detailed in the Offseason Handbook, Castro hasn't shown much with his bat over the last three seasons, posting a combined .215/.291/.369 line over that time. It would seem in the Twins' best interested to use him in a platoon role with the right-handed swinging John Ryan Murphy. Over the last two seasons Castro hit a passable .225/.315/.417 against right-handed pitching. In that sense, the $8.2 million per year is a hefty fee for a platoon candidate but as the left-handed hitting one, Castro would play the lion's share of the games.
Castro's biggest upside has been his defense. Specifically his ability to steal strikes from outside of the zone, particularly against right-handed hitters.
This could be an immediate impact for pitchers. Consider Kyle Gibson. Gibson does not possess swing-and-miss stuff but has plenty of movement and stays around the zone. With his sinker and slider combo, Gibson could be one big benefactor to Castro's outer-half framing skills.
Castro's receiving skill set goes beyond gaining a strike call from off the plate. It is ensuring that pitches that cut through the zone are also acknowledged as such. Consider this: over the last three season with Kurt Suzuki as the primary catcher, the Twins have had 81.3% of pitches that were in the strike zone and the batter watched it go by, called a strike -- the lowest in baseball. The Twins pitching staff, who did not need to be further behind the eight ball, was victimized to some degree by their catchers' performance. We cannot rule out some influence on inconsistent location or umpire biases, to be sure. However by comparison the Astros pitching staff, backstopped by Castro, had baseball's second best rate at 85.3%. While it may seem like a small percentage, that can make a significant difference in any given at bat.
"Framing" might be the word that makes people cringe, as if the act is dishonest and swindling a human who is paid to make accurate calls. The reality is framing is receiving the ball in the right way. It is positioning your body to give the umpire a good look at a pitch. It is making a pitch that is one ball length off the plate look more like it clipped a part of the zone.
What exactly does Castro's framing skills look like? Here he is stealing a called third strike, coaxing a pitch that passed by the zone back into it.
The previous front office regime did not put much, if any, emphasis on the value of catcher framing. The recent signings of Kurt Suzuki and Ryan Doumit did little to assist the pitching staff. Castro, on the other hand, has gone from a mediocre receiver to one of the game's highest valued, saving 32.2 framing runs above average (7th out of 103 qualified catchers) for the Astros over the last three seasons compared to Suzuki's -32.0 framing runs (100 out of 103 catchers). In theory, that is a six-game swing or could have been a two-game improvement in each season had the Twins employed Castro over Suzuki.
When you break the numbers down further, we find that Castro is extremely adept at getting strikes called in hitter's counts. According to ESPN/Tru Media's framing stats, Castro was second in baseball among all catchers with a 15.3 framing runs above average mark when the hitter's were ahead. That means Castro was able to help get his pitcher from dangerous territory into more manageable areas.
The move is not sexy from an offseason standpoint, however, this signing could give the Twins' pitching staff a much needed shot in the arm.
- Cory Engelhardt and HitInAPinch like this