Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch recently was quoted in an interview regarding infielder Willi Castro, stating he has a ‘long leash to figure things out,’ in
. So far, the results for Castro have been abysmal, as he has slashed .193/.250/.303 across 156 plate appearances (39 games) in 2021.
Defensively, his struggles have continued as well; mainly with his throwing arm. He’s posted a total of -0.6 dWAR in 2021 and is already at -3 on Baseball Savant’s Outs Above Average (OAA). Heading into 2021, the shortstop job was Castro’s to lose. There were plenty of narratives suggesting 2021 would be a defensive year of improvement for the 24-year-old, but such improvements have not come to pass and Hinch slid Castro to second base where the results have also been mixed.
Teams, especially ones constructed as the current Detroit Tigers, can deal with deficiencies on one side of the ball provided they show signs of strength on the other. But Castro has been far removed from his .349/.381/.550 performance in 2020–leaving many to wonder exactly how long the organization is willing to give Castro to figure it out, at least offensively.
Long leashes are arbitrary and subjective in nature, but I have a hunch that Castro’s leash is precisely 2021-long. It is not only important for Castro to try and figure things out for himself, but the organization needs to know who they can realistically count on in 2022 with Jonathan Schoop scheduled to be a free agent once again and no impact help immediately ready and waiting in the minors.
I love the principles behind meritocracy and performance-based play, but baseball does not always allow for that. On a team that is not competitive anyway, one of the luxuries (if you’d like to call it that) is the flexibility to allow these young players to develop at the major league level. Additionally, the 40-man roster is always a factor in decisions made by any front office. Hoarding players is important and continually designating and potentially losing players isn’t exactly tactful management.
There is a shortstop wave this winter that the Tigers should be consciously considering–Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, and Corey Seager among them. While it has become clear that any of these blue-chip names would be an upgrade, they would still need clarity around what Castro’s role would end up being. These superstars do need a double-play mate, after all.
Willi Castro is likely a bench bat on a good team at his best. I don’t feel the switch-hitting middle infielder is quite this bad, at least offensively. If he turns the corner and shows the innate ability to barrel the ball as he showed in 2020, the Detroit Tigers can live with an errant throw or two. If not, the leash runs out Sunday, October 3rd against the Chicago White Sox.