From BR Bullpen
José Rondon Castillo
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 210 lb.
- Debut April 7, 2004
- Final Game September 28, 2008
- Born March 19, 1981 in Las Mercedes, Guarico, Venezuela
 Biographical Information
José Castillo is an infielder for the Yokohama BayStars organization.
Castillo was initially signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a 16-year-old. He debuted the next year, 1998, with Montalban of the Venezuelan Summer League, hitting .291/?/.369 and stealing 23 bases. In 1999, José batted .266/~.310/.387 for the GCL Pirates with a team-leading 30 RBI. He stole 8 bases in 8 tries.
Castillo moved on to the Hickory Crawdads in 2000 to make his debut in full-season ball at age 19. He put up a .299/.346/.480 line and led the Pirates farm system with 158 hits. He scored 95 runs, hammered 32 doubles, 8 triples and 16 homers to establish himself as a prospect. He was only 16 for 28 in steals, though, and whiffed 107 times while only drawing 29 walks. He led South Atlantic League shortstops in assists (392) but also in errors (60). Baseball America rated him as having the best infield arm in the SAL and the #5 prospect in the Pittsburgh organization. He only hit .218/~.282/.337 in winter play.
José struggled in 2001 with the Lynchburg Hillcats. He only hit .245/.288/.359 and was 23 for 33 in steals. He did tie Javier Colina for the Carolina League lead in triples (7) and led league shortstops in putouts (220) and double plays (85). In the winter ball season, he hit .280/~.329/.408 for the Caracas Lions.
Returning to Lynchburg, the young shortstop had a big year. He batted .300/.370/.452 with 82 runs, 81 RBI, 16 homers and 27 steals (in 41 attempts). He led Carolina League shortstops in putouts (245), assists (402) and double plays (92) and tied Hector Luna for the error lead (33). He was 10th in average. He made the league All-Star team at shortop. Baseball America rated him the #7 shortstop prospect in baseball and the #2 Carolina League prospect behind teammate Sean Burnett. They also rated him as having the best infield arm in the Carolina League and said he was the league's most exciting player.
Castillo followed his fine 2002 summer campaign with a fine winter season. He batted .327/~.365/.551 and led the Venezuelan Winter League in runs (28) and tied for the lead in triples (4). He was only 3 RBI behind leader Robert Perez by driving in 27 and his 8 homers were two shy of leader Rob Stratton. Baseball America rated him as the #2 prospect there as well, behind only Miguel Cabrera.
In 2003, José produced at a .287/.339/.390 clip and went 19 for 29 in steals. His strikeout rate had kept falling and he only whiffed 81 times while drawing 40 walks. On the other hand, his power fell off drastically as he only went deep five times. He played for the World team in 2003 Futures Game, batting 9th and playing shortstop. He went 0 for 2 with an error. Baseball America ranked him as the #20 prospect in the Eastern League. He hit .255/~.335/.421 in winter play for Caracas and was ranked as the #10 prospect in the VSL according to Baseball America.
Pittsburgh had a gaping hole at second base from 2000 through 2003 and Castillo was given the job out of spring training for the 2004 season. As a rookie, he hit .256/.298/.368, not much but he was only 23 years old and showed some power and defensive skill.
José had a great winter season in 2004-2005. He batted .364/~.409/.598 with 41 runs (4 off of the league lead), 10 homers and 38 RBI in 214 AB for Caracas. He was second in the league in average, fourth in home runs and tied for third in RBI.
Castillo struggled with injuries in 2005. He missed about a month with a strained left oblique and then tore the medial collateral ligament of his left leg when Hector Luna spiked him during a double play. Between the two injuries, José batted .268/.307/.416 for a decent 87 OPS+ for a middle infielder with solid defense.
Castillo struggled with a .253/.299/.382 line in 2006. His defense was worse as well from all accounts and there was some speculation Pittsburgh would move him away from second base in the future. It was an overall bad year for Pittsburgh's defense as SS Jack Wilson also was a huge disappointment with the glove. Some of the concern was directed to the fact that Castillo had bulked up significantly in the past several years. Castillo's OPS+ was worse than in his rookie season. In late May, he homered in five consecutive games. After a .279/.334/.443 first half, he slipped to .216/.248/.296 in a miserable second half. He hit 11 first-half homers and 3 in the second half. There was speculation Pittsburgh might trade him away and move Freddy Sanchez to second full-time but no move materialized over the winter.
He seemed to bounce back well in winter play, hitting .308/.389/.471 with more walks (26) than strikeouts (21) and 40 RBI, tied for fourth in the VWL. He also began seeing use in the outfield later in the year. In the 2007 Caribbean Series, he hit a fine .321/.345/.536 with 6 doubles in six games. Unfortunately, he had three errors in right field.
In January of 2007, Castillo became the target of criticism by his 2004-2006 double play mate, Wilson. Jack said "Freddy is my second baseman, in my mind. He's the guy I can trust to [...] get the job done. Castillo's got to show me something." Some in the Pittsburgh media seconded Wilson's remarks in that Castillo needed to show he could live up to his potential.
Castillo showed up in spring training in 2007 significantly lighter than in 2006. He said he had lost 10 pounds over the off-season thanks to a workout regimen and winter ball play; manager Jim Tracy said it appeared that Castillo had dropped 20 pounds. In the first infield drills of training camp, Castillo was placed at third base and in the "B" group, raising many questions. He hit about as well as Jose Bautista in spring training. With about a week left in camp, Tracy named Bautista the starter at third with Freddy Sanchez moving to second and Castillo being moved to the bench after three years as the starting second baseman. Sanchez was soon placed on the disabled list, leaving Castillo as the Opening Day second baseman once again, but Sanchez assumed the starting role when he returned to the lineup later in April. Castillo did not perform well in the limited opportunities he was given, posting a batting line of .242/.283/.330 in the first half of the season. With the Pirates' acquisition of infielder Cesar Izturis in July, Castillo was relegated to sixth infielder status. He hit .244/.270/.335 in 87 games that season. After his powerful winter in Venezuela, he failed to hit a home run. Pittsburgh released Castillo on December 6th. Three weeks later, he signed with the Florida Marlins.
Castillo had another big winter, hitting .386/.412/.623 for Caracas with 9 homers and 41 RBI in 51 games. The power was especially surprising as he had not homered in 221 AB for Pittsburgh that summer. He was 4th in home runs, second to Eliezer Alfonzo in RBI and led the league in average, 41 points over runner-up Gregor Blanco.
Late in spring training in 2008, Castillo was waived by the Marlins and picked up by the San Francisco Giants. Due to the loss of Kevin Frandsen for the year to injury, Castillo was appointed San Francisco's starting third baseman to open the season. Castillo snapped his homerless drought at 450 at-bats on April 30th; his previous circuit clout had been in mid-August 2006. Castillo hit .244/.290/.381 with 28 doubles for the 2008 Giants, for a 74 OPS+, while playing unexceptional defense at third base. He was waived again in August and picked up by the Houston Astros. He batted .281/.314/.313 in 15 games for Houston.
Castillo did not play for the first month of the 2009 season. The Uni-President Lions of Taiwan signed him in May to replace another ex-Pirate at third base, Rico Washington. His 487 MLB hits were the most by any player signed by the Lions, breaking Andujar Cedeno's record by two. In his Chinese Professional Baseball League debut, Castillo homered off Chih-Chia Chang. He hit .314/.356/.499 for the Lions with 13 home runs in 73 games, but also with 17 errors.
Castillo parlayed his fine CPBL campaign into a trip to Japan, signing with the Yokohama BayStars for 2010. He debuted for Yokohama on Opening Day, March 26, hitting sixth and playing second base. He went 0 for 3 against the Hanshin Tigers that day.