Luis Castro hit the July 2012 international signing period set to cash in.
Rated the No. 9 international prospect that year by Baseball America, Castro agreed to terms with the Toronto Blue Jays that would pay the Venezuelan an $800,000 signing bonus. But Blue Jays doctors spotted an issue in his knee, and Toronto backed out of the deal.
To this day, Castro doesn’t know the problem.
“My knee is really good,” he said. “Nothing bad happened when I was younger. I don’t know. That’s weird.”
The Colorado Rockies swooped in and signed the then-16-year-old Castro for a bargain at $50,000. But Castro has moved on from the financial setback, making a name for himself in the Rockies’ organization with zero knee issues.
“That was really bad for me, and for my family,” Castro said. “But it was a good experience for me.”
Castro, 20, struggled in Boise last season, hitting .219 while shuffling in and out of the lineup. But since returning to the Hawks for a second year, Castro has found a home in the heart of the lineup daily, hitting third or fourth in 12-of-14 games.
He’s hitting .262 after a 0-for-5 day Saturday, ending his six-game hitting streak in an 8-6 loss to Hillsboro. He’s also shown power this year with a league-leading four home runs.
Castro said a strong offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League boosted his confidence, and he’s grown comfortable with the steady diet of breaking balls he’s faced in the Northwest League. Hawks manager Andy Gonzalez pointed to a fix in his swing, trading a front-foot toe tap for a leg kick.
But even Castro — known for his power to the gaps, not over the fence — admits he’s surprised himself this summer. He hit six home runs in his previous 147 games.
“In my first three years of my career, I hit only two home runs (each year) — two in the Dominican, two in Grand Junction, two here last year,” Castro said. “I got four right now. Unbelievable.”
The surge at the plate has also come with a surge in playing time as the Rockies move him around the infield in search of at-bats. He began his career as a third baseman, played second exclusively last season in Boise and has moved primarily to first this year.
That flexibility ensures Gonzalez can find a spot for Castro in the ever-shifting lineups of the low minor leagues. And it’ll help Castro avoid any positional blocks as he moves up.
“There are so many changes throughout the year, guys coming and going, signings, new signings and stuff like that,” Gonzalez said. “But we all feel as an organization that he can hit. That’s why we have him in the middle of the lineup every day. We’re trying to find a spot for him where he can be the best he can be.”
HAWKS ADD SIXTH-ROUND PICK: Outfielder Willie Abreu joined the Hawks on Saturday after leading Miami to the College World Series. The 6-4, 225-pounder started in right field, batting fifth and going 0-for-4 in his professional debut. He signed for a reported $303,700 bonus, the slot value for the 170th pick.