As a Marlins fan, there are few things that were more reliable than Luis Castillo handling second base.
Throughout the 2020-21 offseason, we’ve been going over all of the players to appear with the Florida and Miami Marlins through their first 28 seasons of major league play. We’ve covered 608 of them coming into today’s piece, and have only 22 to go. Players are ordered in ascending bWAR value divided by PA/BF.
22. Luis Castillo
Although there was later a pitcher named Luis Castillo attached to the Marlins organization, he was traded away for Dan Straily. This Luis Castillo is a five-foot-11 switch-hitting second baseman from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. On August 19, 1992, the Marlins signed him a month shy of his 17th birthday. Eventually a 15-season major league veteran, Castillo spent the first 10 years of his big league career with the Marlins.
Castillo didn’t just head straight to the majors, making his major league debut with the Marlins in 1996. His first three seasons would see him split time between their Double-A affiliate, the Portland Sea Dogs (109 games in 1996), their Triple-A Charlotte Knights (137 games between 1997 and 1998), and the Marlins proper (160 contests).
Castillo stole 36-of-50 bases and slashed .236/.213/.279 while walking 63 times and whiffing 132 times. His collective three-season OPS of 61+ is a mark that he would eclipse in ever succeeding season in the majors, including his 2010 mark of 68 (achieved with the New York Mets).
Castillo came into his own at the plate for the Marlins in 1999, hitting .302/.384/.366, stealing 50 bases in 67 attempts, and drawing 67 walks versus 85 strikeouts. Although his fielding percentage of .976 was not quite as good as the National League “average” second baseman, it is a mark that he easily surpassed in each of his final six seasons with the Marlins.
The 2000 season was clearly Castillo’s best in the majors, with a .334/.418/.388 slashline, a major league leading 62 stolen bases in 84 attempts, and 78 walks to go with 86 whiffs. As Castillo’s walk rate steadily improved and his strikeout-rate steadily dropped, his defense was also improving slightly from year-to-year. Widely considered more-or-less an “average” second baseman through the 2002 season (his first all-star game, mind you), Castillo won his first of three straight Gold Gloves in 2003.
Castillo’s first seven major league seasons would see him at minus-8 DRS through the 2002 season, comprising nearly 6000 innings at second base. From 2003 through 2005, he was at plus-40 DRS in 3,599 defensive innings, with a .982 fielding percentage and the aforementioned trio of National League Gold Gloves at second base. He also made the NL All Star Team twice more, in 2003 and in 2005.
Although Castillo only hit .211 in the 2003 run to the World Series Championship, he did have one standout performance, in Florida’s 9-8, 11-inning Game One victory over the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series. Castillo went three-for-five, reaching base five times in total, hitting a double, stealing two bases and scoring once.
Castillo totaled multiple hits in 352 of his 1,128 Marlins appearances, both franchise records. He earned his highest single-game WPA in a contest that he only got one. On June 8, 1999, Castillo struck out and grounded out twice before hitting an eighth-inning double. Although he was stranded, Dave Berg scored to tie the Baltimore Orioles at one. With two outs and the bases loaded in the last of the ninth, Castillo drew a full count walk-off walk for a 2-1 Marlins victory.
Castillo leads the Marlins all-time in a lot of categories, including 42 triples, 281 stolen bases (in 395 attempts), 675 runs, 1,273 base hits, and 533 walks. For contrast, his 629 strikeouts ranks seventh all-time, and his 20 homers ranks 48th just ahead of JT Riddle. For each of Castillo’s last three seasons with the Marlins, he drew more walks than he struck out, including 2005, when he walked 65 times and struck out only 32 times in 524 plate appearances.
It wouldn’t be right to not at least mention that Castillo had a 35-game hit-streak in 2002. From May 8 through June 21, he hit .403, going 62-for-154 with 14 RBI and 17 multiple-hit games.
After the 2005 season, the Marlins traded Castillo to the Minnesota Twins for Scott Tyler and Travis Bowyer, neither of whom took the field for the Marlins at the major league level. Castillo, meanwhile, played a year-and-a-half for the Twins before joining the Mets for his final three-and-a-half seasons.
I mentioned Castillo’s first three-season slashline with the Marlins, so it’s only fair that I also mention his final-seven season slashline. He hit .302/.379/.368 in his final 968 games. His overall .293 average with the Marlins ranks seventh of players with over 200 games played in the field. Five of the six ahead of him are still to come in this all-encompassing countdown. Thanks for reading.