Ivan Castillo, Up From the Bottom of the Order

Looking at the High-A Lynchburg roster you might be inclined to skip past shortstop Ivan Castillo and gravitate towards some of the more familiar names on the roster, as the 2105 Hillcats have been host to nine of the Cleveland Indians Top 30 prospects according to Baseball America’s 2015 Prospect Handbook. Not only are there a number of top prospects, but Castillo usually occupies the ninth spot in the Hillcats batting order, thus he is not the first player on the roster you would examine.

Last week Castillo erased this relative anonymity by winning the Carolina League player of the week award following on the heels of teammate Clint Frazier, who earned this honor the week before. This makes the fourth Hillcats player to earn weekly honors this season.
For the week of July 20 – 26 Castillo put up an impressive offensive output. His triple slash line for the week was .524 / .583 / 1.000 in 6 games where he tallied eleven hits, five RBI’s, six runs, two walks and only two strikeouts.

“That was so exciting,” Castillo says about winning the award, “I’ve been working on my hitting and every time I go to the plate I have a plan. Now it’s paying off for me.”

His most impressive number in this award-winning performance, though, was the five triples in a four game span. This vaulted him over teammate Luigi Rodriguez and into the Carolina League lead with a total of 12 three-baggers on the season.

“When I’m at the plate and when I hit the ball I run hard, and when I hit the ball in the gap I am always looking for three bases.”

The first two of Castillo’s 5 triple outburst came as part of a 15 hit attack on the road against the Winston Salem Dash. He led off the third inning of this game with a triple to right field and soon scored as the next batter, Luigi Rodriguez, singled to bring him home.

In the top of the seventh inning Castillo again led off the inning with a triple to right field again and immediately scored on a double by Luigi Rodriguez. His totals for that game were 3 for 4 with two runs and one RBI.

The next night, now at home against the visiting Myrtle Beach Pelicans, he nearly repeated the performance, going 2 for 4 with a triple, two runs and one RBI.

By the time Myrtle Beach was packing their bus to head home to South Carolina, the Hillcats had swept the three game series and Castillo had tallied three triples as part of an 8 for 14 performance at the plate driving in five runs and scoring four times himself.

This began a stretch of six home games, two three game series, where the Hillcats swept the visiting club and resulted in the team vaulting over their Carolina League Northern Division competition into first place in the standings.

Castillo is a 5’11” 150 lb. 20 year old shortstop out of Santiago in the Dominican Republic. Growing up he had two players he watched that influenced his desire and interest in playing shortstop.

“Growing up I always watched Jose Reyes.” he said. “He was my inspiration to play shortstop and baseball.”

The other influence on his baseball career has been his brother Lendy Castillo, who played shortstop for three years in the Philadelphia system before being converted to pitching and is now at AA Frisco of the Texas League.

“Since I was a little kid that [shortstop] was the position I always liked, and my big brother, he used to play shortstop. Now he’s a pitcher in the Texas Ranger organization.” said Castillo, obviously proud of his brother and the influence he has had on him.

“He is always teaching me the little things about how to play shortstop.”

It is clear that Castillo considers this award just a step in his development as a player. With his dedication to playing in the middle infield, Castillo still remains humble about his skills.

“I just keep doing what I’ve been working hard on.” he says. With a game predicated on his speed, he also uses the bunt to his advantage.

“Get the ball down, don’t try to go to first base before you bunt the ball.” Castillo says with modesty, “I’m working on it though I’m not yet where I want to be.”

The 2015 season marks Castillo’s fourth in pro-ball and the Indians farm system. He has played 91 games so far this year, a career high, also establishing career numbers for at-bats, runs, total bases, stolen bases and triples, and has currently tied his career high for doubles.

He has also established career highs on the defensive side of the ledger. He has 428 total chances to 27 errors for a .937 fielding percentage with 61 double plays. For comparison current Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor had a .952 fielding percentage, 18 errors in 375 total chances, in 82 games when he played in the Carolina League in 2013.

With a month left in the season he is sure to establish career highs in many other offensive and defensive measures and will continue to look toward third base every time he drives a ball into the gap.

David Freier was born in Brooklyn New York in 1966 less than a decade after the Dodgers had departed the very same borough. His first professional baseball game was at Yankee stadium and to this day he and his father still argue over who started for the Orioles that day (his father says Mike Cuellar, while he insists it was Jim Palmer). Being a lover of underdogs he naturally became a Mets fan. He grew up in Montclair New Jersey which had the advantage of being home to two baseball legends, Yogi Berra and Larry Doby, as well as having a local college which regularly held baseball card conventions that fed his baseball card hobby. While attending college at the University of Richmond he and some of his friends attended a Richmond Braves game in the then (1985) brand new Diamond stadium, and now home to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. This began what has become a passion for the minor leagues of baseball. During his 10 years as a Richmond resident he and his future wife developed an affinity for the Braves, especially when Richmond fan favorite Francisco Cabrera scored the winning run to knock the Pirates from contention and vault the Braves into the World Series of 1991. During extensive travels he has rooted for the Minnesota Twins, Minneapolis Loons, St. Paul Saints, Iowa Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Erie Sea Wolves, Berkshire Bears and of course the Lynchburg Hillcats. To date he has visited over 110 different baseball parks in which he has seen a game. He joined the Society for American Baseball Research in 2000 and has been a member ever since, where he participates on the Biographical and Minor Leagues committees when time permits. In his day job he is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Science at Lynchburg College in Virginia.

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