It’s expected for the Astros to only have one All-Star representative again this season. Before the season started, everyone just assumed that would be second baseman Jose Altuve again. While he is certainly deserving, a case could be made for a few guys from the Astros. This week the Climbing Tal’s Hill writers and editors will make our case for five Astros players to take that spot. After Greg Thurston argues for his candidate on Friday, we want you, the Hill Climbers, to select your All-Star on our poll.
I feel like I have the easiest job in promoting our catcher, Jason Castro, as my All-Star favorite. Who better to represent the Astros than cASTRO? The Astros’ first round pick from 2008 has shown drastic improvement in all facets of his game (except maybe his speed). Having been plagued by injuries in his first few major league seasons, this year Castro has proved that he can stay healthy and put up great offensive numbers.
First let’s take a look at how he stacks up against the other catchers in the American League. Jason Castro’s 1.7 WAR is third among AL catchers. He currently ranks first in slugging percentage (.486) and is second in doubles with 18 and home runs with ten. Castro also ranks fourth in average (.270), OBP (.328) and hits with 60. The only three catchers that lead Castro in any of these categories are the Twins’ Joe Mauer, the Indians’ Carlos Santana and the Royals’ Salvador Perez. I believe it’s important to note that out of these players, only Perez has spent more innings behind the plate than Castro’s 425.1. In fact, Castro has caught 56 more innings than Mauer and 76.1 more than Santana. The more innings a catcher spends behind the plate, the more strain is put on their body and that can definitely cause their offensive numbers to lag a bit.
Now that you’ve seen how Jason Castro compares to the other catchers in the league, let me show you how he stacks up against the other players on his team. Among players with at least 100 at-bats, Castro-the-Astro leads his team in WAR, SLG, OPS (.816) and doubles. He is also second in hits and home runs. If you look at his batting statistics in high-leverage situations, you will see that he has been a “clutch” player this season. As of Saturday night, in 21 high-leverage at-bats he was hitting .381 with a homer, two doubles and slugging .417. That doesn’t even include Sunday’s late-inning home run to increase the Astros’ lead from one to three.
Perhaps where Jason Castro has been most impressive has been in an area where stats have a hard time supporting him. The job that he has done with the Astros’ young pitching staff has been phenomenal. After a horrid start to the 2013 campaign, the starting pitchers have settled in and, over the past month, become a force to be reckoned with. With a 2.93 ERA, the Astros’ starting staff has been the second best in the American League over the last 30 days. You can credit the pitchers for making adjustments; you can credit the pitching coach, Doug Brocail, with mentoring his young group and coming up with good game plans; but you also have to credit Jason Castro with calling one great game after another and helping his pitching staff execute their game plans.
Jason Castro has been a pleasant surprise to Astros’ fans this season. He is living up to his first-round draft status, and proving that former Scouting Director Bobby Heck and former General Manager Ed Wade knew what they were doing when they took him tenth overall. Castro will turn 26 on Tuesday and has already jumped into the upper-echelon of MLB catchers. It would be a complete travesty for Castro to not be the Astros’ representative for the All-Star game. If he is snubbed… there is your “embarrassment to baseball”, Ken Rosenthal.