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In Welington Castillo, the Orioles got exactly what was advertised

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“Beef” hit bombs, threw runners out, and was improved behind the plate. He contributed to the Orioles’ cause precisely as was predicted, and then some.

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

I’m gonna miss Welington Castillo.

That is, assuming he declines his seven million dollar option and opts for free agency. After his 2017 output, it would seem to be the only choice that makes any sense for him.

The Orioles will be fine in the long run, however. Perhaps the front office will finally realize that Caleb Joseph’s defensive wizardry provides enough reason for him to be an everyday catcher. Chance Sisco has been put on a pedestal by scouts and prospect writers, and as we saw in September, Sisco’s .333/.455/.778 slash in 22 plate appearances was evidence why. The Orioles have plenty of holes to plug, but catcher isn’t one of them.

That doesn’t mean I won’t miss the Beef anyway.

Following the overdue departure of “Joe Mauer with power”, Castillo signed with the Orioles on a one-year, six million dollar contract with an option as described above. Castillo’s presence was always seen as temporary, given Sisco’s credentials and the overall essence of the agreement, but Beef’s contributions to the 2017 brand of Orioles baseball were perfectly satisfactory, if not better than should have been expected.

If all he did was hit a walk-off home run against the oh-so lovable Jason Grilli, that would have been enough.

But he did a little more than just that.

At the end of it all, Castillo posted a .282/.323/.490 slash, worth a 113 wRC+. Castillo’s wRC+ number placed as the seventh-best mark among catchers with a minimum of 350 plate appearances, and eventually became the highest figure he’s ever posted over the course of a full season. As it would be, Castillo was one of the Orioles more consistent offensive threats.

Welington Castillo Offense by Month

### AVG OPS wRC+ ISO
### AVG OPS wRC+ ISO
April .314 .776 105 .129
May .329 .846 124 .180
June .175 .615 57 .211
July .309 .803 117 .127
August .371 1.113 191 .339
Sept./Oct. .170 .692 75 .277

Other than the exception of a couple of months, Castillo maintained a pretty steady pace as an above-average hitter. And funny enough, even in those slumping months, he managed to produce a semblance of pop. Owning a career strikeout rate of 25 percent, Castillo saw those same numbers fall every so slightly, equating to more contact this season than last. Probably helps to see better pitches, too.

The map on the left represents how pitchers attacked Castillo in 2016, and obversely, the right shows what happened in 2017. Most obviously, Castillo was the beneficiary of a lot more hittable pitches in locations he could extend his hands. Secondly, the mustardy stuff on the boundaries of the red shifted from down to up this season, an additional benefit.

Just as a fan too, it was easy to admire Castillo’s streaks of grind-it-out at-bats. Unlike his neighbors in his neck of the lineup, Castillo proved to be a tough out more often than not, and I swooned when he dumped a single into right field. His offense, I will miss.

His catching? No so much.

Yet again, Castillo was a brick wall behind the plate, accruing solid marks in terms of Baseball Prospectus’ blocking runs (0.9), and after 96 games, there was enough there to know he’d keep the baseball in front of him. Perhaps it was lost in the shuffle of the Orioles demise, but Castillo led all of baseball with a caught-stealing rate of 49 percent. The nature of catching makes it all very tough to master or really care for all the variants of what happens behind home plate. The tools of ignorance, bro.

But where Castillo is definitely good in parts, his framing and game-calling are probably always going to be less than ideal. But you know, Castillo said he was going to work on his ability to sway a few calls, and he did.

A year ago, Castillo finished in the depths of baseball’s most beleaguered framers, but in 2017, he improved, like a lot. Jumping from -9.4 framing runs to -0.9, Castillo made a rather visible effort to help his pitchers out, unlike a former Orioles that rhymes with Cat Peters. Castillo tried, and sometimes it worked, more often it didn’t. But strides were made, and such is worthy of its proper praise.

Beef heads into his age 31 season, meaning he should still get paid a respectable sum for his offensive traits. The Orioles don’t have any sensible reason to want him back, and neither does Castillo. But I enjoyed watching Beef hit, I was lulled by his mild-mannered personality, and any dude that overcomes not one, but TWO nut shots of MOAB-level impact has my respect.

Castillo probably didn’t create enough rep to produce a Nelson Cruz level of sads, but you’ll find yourself rooting for him wherever he goes. As an Oriole, he did that much.