Following his longest summer behind the plate last year, Jason Castro, was told by the Astros to shut it down in October. The club's top prospect and catcher of the future had lost 20 pounds during the course of the season and seemingly ran out of gas.
His first professional season saw him split time between Class-A Advanced Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi as well as play in the All-Star Futures Game, play for the U.S. team in the IBAF World Cup in Italy and in the Arizona Fall League.
Playing a position that is notorious for squatty, husky body-types, Castro is anything but that with a long and lean 6-foot-3 frame and 210 pounds.
"I have to stay conscious about (my weight)," Castro said. "I really need to make sure I stay on top of that and get my weight training in and still playing everyday.
"It's kind of a good problem to have but I'm just trying to get enough calories in because we're out there for so long burning calories. Just playing everyday, trying to eat right and trying to lift is big."
If the weight issues were a concern, his numbers weren't. The 10th overall pick in 2008 out of Stanford, hit .309 with seven homers and 44 RBI last year at high Class-A Lancaster in 56 games and .293 with three homers and 29 RBI at Double-A Corpus Christi in 63 games.
Now that he has gained the weight back in the off-season, Astros assistant general manager Ricky Bennett thinks it will only help him with the bat. Bennett oversees player development for the organization.
"From an offensive standpoint he has the ability to hit," Bennett said. "He's a left-handed hitter who can drive the ball to all parts of the field.
"I don't think he's going to be a home run hitter in terms of hitting 30-40 homers a year, but he's going to be able to drive the ball to all parts of the field and hit with some power."
Through Thursday, Castro is hitting .272, while also hitting his first Triple-A home run on Monday night. He's also riding a nine-game hitting streak that is his longest of the season.
"I've put a lot of work into hitting, so here it's a bit of a learning curve and I'm getting used to it," Castro said. "The way that the guys pitch here is a lot different than things I've seen in the past.
"I like to think of myself as an offensive catcher. It's definitely a learning experience compared to maybe last year in Double-A when guys were willing to challenge you a little more with fastballs."
While continuing to get at-bats and growing offensively at the AAA level, his defense is his calling card with quick feet and a plus arm.
"Jason understands that his opportunity is going to come," Bennett said. "Jason's done everything we've asked him to do.
"Everyday he's in the lineup he is going to learn something different. The most important thing is to continue to get bats, continue to get the experience and his time will come - whether that is a month from now or three months from now, as long as he takes the steps to make himself a better player everyday because that's what we're looking for."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.