Obituary: Jose Castillo (1981-2018)

RIP to Jose Castillo, a second and third baseman who had his best MLB seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was one of two players killed in a car accident on December 6. Castillo was 37 years old. He played for the Pirates (2004-07), San Francisco Giants (2008) and Houston Astros (2008).

Castillo was born in Las Mercedes, Venezuela on March 19, 1981. He was signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1997. He made it to the majors when he was 23 years old, completely bypassing AAA on his way through the Pirates’ system. In his rookie year of 2004, he slashed .256/.298.368 in 129 games and improved upon nearly every offensive category in 2005. Castillo hit a career-high 14 home runs and 65 RBIs in 2006 and hit .253 in 2006 and showed flashes of brilliance.

In a week-long span from May 26-June 1, 2006, Castillo hit 6 home runs, including five straight games, knocked in 17 runs and raised his batting average from .288 to .311. He kept his batting average as high as .276 by the end of August, but some late-season struggles hurt his overall numbers. Still, his teammates expected greatness from the 25-year-old.

“He has all the tools offensively and defensively,” teammate Freddy Sanchez told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s spent a lot of hours in the cage with {hitting coach Jeff] Manto, and it’s starting to pay off.”

Castillo struggled in 2007, hitting .244 in 87 games without a single home run, and he was released by the Pirates in 2007. He wasn’t productive, wasn’t happy and lost his starting role. He was picked up by the Florida Marlins a couple of weeks later but was claimed off waivers by the Giants in March 2008. He appeared in 112 games with San Francisco, batting the same .244 that he hit with the Pirates the previous season, and was claimed by Houston near the end of the season. He batted .281 with the Astros in 15 games.

For his career, Castillo had a .254/.296/.379 slash line and a .675 OPS. He had 487 hits in 592 cageer games, with 39 home runs and 218 RBIs. He spent most of his time in the field at second base, where his .976 fielding percentage was  a little under league average, but he could make brilliant plays at times. He also played 144 games at third base, a few at shortstop and three innings in right field.

From 2009 through 2018, Castillo played in Mexico and Venezuela and also spent 2 seasons in Japan. In parts of 13 seasons in foreign leagues, he had a lifetime .305 batting average with 152 home runs.


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