Will Twins’ Willi Castro Get the All-Star Nod He Deserves?

Utility man Willi Castro has played like an All-Star for the Twins this season. Will he be rewarded with a trip to the Midsummer Classic?

Willi Castro #50 of the Minnesota Twins high fives Carlos Santana #30 after scoring a run during the second inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JUNE 27: Willi Castro #50 of the Minnesota Twins high fives Carlos Santana #30 after scoring a run during the second inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 27, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, Jose Altuve was named the starting second baseman for the American League All-Star team. Few would argue that he wasn’t deserving of the honor; Altuve is enjoying another strong season, as per usual. This marks his ninth All-Star appearance and sixth time as the elected starter.

However, there was one other AL player on the ballot at second base who has outproduced Altuve this season, at least according to FanGraphs WAR. Get your guesses ready.

It’s not two-time All-Star Marcus Semien. It’s not Platinum Glove winner Andrés Giménez. Nor is it 2023 breakout star and mustachioed fan-favorite Davis Schneider.

It’s Willi Castro of the Minnesota Twins.

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If you’re thinking “Huh, I didn’t realize Willi Castro was even the Twins’ second baseman,” you’re probably not alone. Castro did not rank among the top 10 vote-getters at second base when MLB released the final phase one voting update.

Edouard Julien was Minnesota’s primary second baseman over the first two months of the season, but he was optioned to Triple-A in early June. Castro and Kyle Farmer have split keystone duties ever since.

Castro is the picture-perfect definition of a utility player. He has appeared in at least 20 games at five different positions this season: second base, third base, shortstop, left field, and center field. As if that weren’t enough, he has also pitched in a couple of blow-outs.

After optioning Julien, the Twins needed to name someone as their second baseman on the All-Star ballot, and they surely wanted to get Castro on there considering his impressive numbers. However, he’s certainly not a bona fide second baseman in the same way Jose Altuve is a bona fide second baseman.

But that’s neither here nor there. I don’t want to quibble about the merits of fan voting, and I’m not trying to compare Castro and Altuve. I’m simply trying to point out how good Castro has looked this year – good enough that you could make the case he deserved to be the starting second baseman for the AL All-Star team over a future Hall of Famer.

Needless to say, that was never going to happen. A relatively unknown name like Castro was never going to win the fan balloting, especially not against Altuve. However, Willi Castro absolutely deserves serious consideration to make the AL All-Star team as a reserve. Let me tell you why.

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Stats in this article updated prior to games on July 5.

Willi Castro’s All-Star Case

Castro ranks 10th among all AL position players in FanGraphs WAR. The nine players above him include five of the All-Star starters, two runners-up, and two more names who certainly deserve to be All-Star reserves.

His .355 on-base percentage and 129 wRC+ both rank among the top 20 qualified AL batters. He has also stolen 10 bases and compiled 2 OAA with his glove. All of that adds up to make him one of the better all-around players in the American League this season.

Indeed, Castro ranks in the 87th percentile for batting run value, the 97th percentile for baserunning run value, and the 78th percentile for fielding run value, per Baseball Savant. Few players rank so highly in all three categories.

Baseball Reference isn’t nearly as high on Castro’s fielding, and thus, his 2.4 bWAR only ranks 21st in the AL. For what it’s worth, 23 position players made the AL All-Star team last season.

With all that said, I’d argue Castro has more than earned his first career All-Star nod. At the very least, it’s impossible to deny that he belongs in the conversation. And yet…

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Will Castro’s Greatest Strength Turn Out To Be His Downfall?

The fact that Castro is capable of fielding so many different positions only increases his value. It has certainly come in handy for the Twins this season. However, it might also be what kills his All-Star case.

Much like the way the fans vote to select the starting lineup, players vote for All-Star reserves on a ballot sorted by position. Thus, Castro could be at a disadvantage if voters do not see him as a second baseman.

In other words, it’s not merely a question of whether or not Castro has been one of the best players in the AL. It’s a question of whether or not he’s been one of the best second basemen. Simply put, the current system of All-Star voting isn’t very good at accommodating utility players.

Moreover, lesser-known players are already at a disadvantage under a system that is inherently a popularity contest. The system is stacked against Castro in more ways than one.

His best chance of making the team might be as a Commissioner’s Office selection; the Commissioner’s Office gets to choose two additional position players to fill out each roster.

However, they often have to use those spots to ensure every team is represented at the All-Star Game. And even if the Commissioner’s Office has to choose a representative for the Twins, it will probably be Carlos Correa. The star shortstop deserves the nod just as much as Castro, if not more.

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That being the case, there is a good chance Willi Castro’s excellent first half goes unrewarded. It may be disappointing, but maybe a snub will motivate him to keep it up down the stretch. What matters most is that he continues producing for the Twins. If he can do that, a chance to shine in the playoffs (and perhaps a utility Silver Slugger!) might be waiting for him in the fall.

Complete rosters for the 2024 MLB All-Star Game, including pitchers and reserves, will be revealed on Sunday, July 7 at 5:30 p.m. ET.