Can Welington Castillo Be Trusted in Fantasy Baseball?

After breaking out with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015, Castillo didn't progress like we hoped last season.

After spending the first six years of his career with the Chicago Cubs, it took Welington Castillo three separate stops in 2015 before finally finding at home with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Even after taking a slight step back at the plate in 2016, it seemed as if his standing in the organization was solid.

The new front office regime had other ideas, though. Castillo was surprisingly non-tendered by the D-Backs in December, making him a free agent. Thankfully, he landed with the Baltimore Orioles, a spot that makes him an equally -- and possibly even more -- intriguing fantasy option.

The fantasy market for catchers is rather top heavy. Buster Posey, Gary Sanchez and Jonathan Lucroy lead the way, and then there is a pretty large gap -- nearly 40 picks, per NFBC average draft position (ADP) data -- until we get to the next backstop. Castillo is way down on that list, with an ADP of 180.94.

This would lead to him finding a home at the end of the 15th round in 12-team leagues. While there's not a ton of risk at that point, he's still the 11th catcher off the board, making him a starter. Can season-long owners trust him as a starter? Let's take a look.

Kind of a Bummer in 2016

Since Castillo didn't really start making noise in 2015 until he landed in Arizona, we'll compare his production during that 80-game span to what he accomplished last season. Unfortunately, he didn't see much positive regression in his counting stats despite increased opportunity.

Career with Arizona Plate Appearances Avg. OBPSLG% Homers RBI's Runs
2015 303 .255 .317 .496 17 50 34
2016 457 .264 .322 .423 14 68 41

These numbers weren't all that bad, though. Compared to other catchers, his homers were tied for 11th, his RBI production was 7th-best and his .745 OPS was slightly better than Russell Martin, who is currently being taken around 11 picks before Castillo.

The biggest bummer is that given Arizona's talent in a great park for offense like Chase Field, Castillo barely outperformed his previous RBI and runs scored production, while falling short in homers despite getting 153 more plate appearances than the year before.

Even with some of his solid work behind the plate, it's not hard to see why the organization went in a different direction. Watching his wRC+ drop from 116 in that 80-game sample to 92 certainly isn't ideal, but it's pretty apparent as to where his production dropped off.

More Fly Balls, Please

We've already gone over the dip in Castillo's counting stats, but do advanced metrics help explain it? Not quite when looking at some of his batted-ball data.

His pull rate (Pull%) and hard-hit rate (Hard%) remained the same compared to his 2015 breakout, along with an increase in line drives (LD%) and a surprisingly steep drop in BABIP.

Career with Arizona LD% Pull% Hard% BABIP
2015 16.8% 44.1% 39.1% .286
2016 25.4% 45.5% 39.8% .337

These are all good things, so what exactly is the problem? Well, this drastic increase in line drives came at the expense of fly balls, which dipped from 40.1% with Arizona in 2015 to 32.8% in 2016.

An increase in line drives is great for hard-hit rate and BABIP, but it's not always great for home runs. And for someone like Castillo to be productive in the power department, he clearly needs to get the ball in the air. Fly balls don't necessarily give hitters the greatest opportunity to have a successful batted-ball event, but without them, it's difficult to hit homers at a regular pace.

Making matters more difficult for Castillo, this decrease in fly balls also led to less success overall in that situation. The below table shows his power performance on fly balls from the entire 2015 season compared to the entire 2016 campaign.

Year OPS Isolated Power BABIP wRC+
2015 1.357 .673 .183 257
2016 .992 .474 .141 144

That's quite a difference, especially when considering his wRC+ on grounders (minus-2 in 2015 to 34 in 2016) and line drives (258 in 2015 to 346 in 2016) went in the opposite direction. Hitting more fly balls won't solve everything, but judging from the numbers here, it certainly wouldn't hurt.

Extreme Platoon Splits?

This is where we go from the sublime to the ridiculous. During his power breakout in 2015 with Arizona, he proved to be a productive hitter against both right-handers and left-handers, posting an OPS over .800 against both.

That didn't continue last year.

2016 Split Plate Appearances OPS ISO Homers RBI wRC+
vs. LHP 127 .868 .243 7 21 124
vs. RHP 330 .698 .126 7 47 79

So, he hit like Nolan Arenado (124 wRC+ in 2016) against southpaws, but he produced worse than Melvin Upton (84 wRC+ in 2016) against right-handers. Yikes.

We can look back at his career platoon splits, but seeing how he's performed since his power emerged makes the most sense because that resembles most of the player he could be in 2017. And with inconsistent results in consecutive years, he's very hard to trust on an everyday basis.

Value in Context

Given the concerns we've raised with regard to Castillo's 2016 performance, there are positives to gleam from it.

He won't get the luxury of playing his home games at Chase Field anymore, but shifting over to the American League East isn't all that bad. Plus, he'll be right in the middle of a powerful Orioles lineup that finished with a league-high 253 homers last year. But what does his value look like with respect to others at his position?

Here is a sample of five players and their Steamer projections for the 2017 season.

2017 Projection ADP Plate Appearances Average Homers RBI Runs
Jonathan Lucroy 52.49 517 .280 25 65 64
Willson Contreras 91.36 441 .271 13 55 48
Salvador Perez 129.85 491 .263 19 65 55
Welington Castillo 180.94 297 .248 10 36 33
Stephen Vogt 206.94 501 .261 14 57 57

This looks awfully ugly for Castillo at first glance, but note the disparity in anticipated plate appearances. He's the only one not projected for more than 300, while the next closest -- Willson Contreras -- is anticipated to get 144 more.

Top prospect Chance Sisco is the future at catcher for Baltimore and is on the cusp of the big leagues, but with only Caleb Joseph competing with him behind the plate, Castillo should see regular playing time for a club in "win-now" mode.


Can he be trusted for season-long fantasy baseball leagues this season?

Based on his inconsistency, it would be hard feeling too confident with him as a starter given that there are so many similar -- and potentially more consistent on a daily basis -- options late in drafts.

However, the potential that he's shown, along with a change of scenery, at least makes him worth keeping an eye on -- or worth burning a bench spot on -- to see how he begins his tenure with the Orioles.