It's a tough time to be a middle infielder in the Braves organization, but despite the presence of Andrelton Simmons, Tommy La Stella and emerging prospect Jose Peraza, Mississippi manager Aaron Holbert thinks Atlanta might have to start considering Daniel Castro's place in the system.
"I see him as a guy that is going to be huge for our success," the M-Braves skipper said. "He's somebody that, as an organization, we may have to recognize in the near future."
The 21-year-old Mexican shortstop drew plenty of attention Tuesday night, going 5-for-5 with his first Double-A homer as Mississippi thwarted Montgomery, 7-4.
The outburst lifted Castro's average to .355 through nine games since being promoted from Class A Advanced Lynchburg. His eighth-inning homer tied the game and sparked a three-run inning that put Mississippi ahead, 6-4.
Power isn't a huge part of Castro's game -- the homer was just his second this season -- but he's shown an early knack for hard contact that's intrigued Holbert.
"I think he'll be more of a line-drive, singles- and doubles-type hitter," Holbert said. "He's put some good swings on the ball at home, though, and unfortunately, it doesn't carry here. ... At another ballpark, he could have two, three, four home runs already. We're not looking for that out of him, but there is some power in his swing."
Castro picked up his first hit in the second inning, driving in a run with a double down the left-field line. He followed that with a two-out single in the third that nearly earned him another RBI, but Biscuits left fielder Willie Argo nailed Cedric Hunter at the plate for the third out.
The infielder singled again in the sixth and capped his five-hit day with another single in the ninth. In between, he ripped his solo homer.
Castro signed with the Braves in 2010 and spent two years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. After that, he returned to his home country for a season and a half with the Saraperos de Saltillo of the Mexican League. After hitting .306 in 140 games, Castro returned to the States, hitting .284 in 26 games with Lynchburg to close out 2013.
Castro returned to the Carolina League this season, slashing .292/.320/.389 in 70 games before moving up to Mississippi.
He's also become a full-time shortstop for the first time in his career. Holbert said the Braves are high on Castro for his hands, and the skipper thinks he has a promising future there because of his athleticism and instincts.
"You hear a lot of people say he has good hands and, for the most part, that's true," Holbert said. "But at the same time, a guy with good hands usually has good feet. That's what you have in Danny. He moves extremely well and positions himself well. He catches the routine ball and doesn't have a strong arm but has an accurate throwing arm."
Dariel Castro has two homers in 79 games across two Minor League levels this season. (Matt Bell/Lynchburg Hillcats)
Particularly intriguing about Castro is his polish defensively. His years in the Mexican League -- where he was surrounded by Triple-A-level talent -- left him with a better feel for positioning and strategy than the average 21-year-old prospect.
"There are a lot of guys who are out of position and have to dive for balls or they're not where they should be when the ball is hit, but he has an understanding of that," Holbert said. "He plays like he's an older, veteran-type player.
"It could come from his years in Mexico playing with older guys. There are a lot of Major League players in Mexico. I think he learned a lot of things from the guys down there, and that's transferring well since coming stateside."
Mississippi also got a big night from Peraza, who went 4-for-5 with two doubles and a stolen base after a day off on Monday to make some adjustments to his swing. Hitting coach John Moses wanted to adjust Peraza's hand positioning, sliding the second baseman's hands further back in his setup to hopefully create a little more bat speed.
"He was setting up with his hands almost in the middle of his stomach, way forward," Holbert said. "We moved his hands back in his regular setup, back a little bit, and that should help him really feel those hands when they're moving back, getting them back behind the baseball."
Holbert was struck by how quickly Peraza made the adjustment, something that speaks to the 20-year-old's coachability.
"It was a small adjustment, but it's good he had success that quickly," Holbert said. "Hopefully, he will continue with that."