The Rome Braves have had a stacked team this season, with some of the bigger prospects in the organization playing a big part in their turnaround. The pitching staff has been phenomenal with names like Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Max Fried, Touki Toussaint and the recently promoted Patrick Weigel coming of age and showing that the talent seen in them may be more than potential. Austin Riley is maturing into the best third base prospect in the system while being arguably the biggest bat on the pipeline behind a huge second half.
Having taken in quite a few Rome Braves games this season, primarily to see the names above, a couple other prospects — though much lesser known — have shown steady improvement seemingly each and every time I visited State Mutual Field.
Castro has had a nice season in Rome, and came alive appropriately when Rome did in the second half. He’s a big swinger, and somewhat older than most of the pitching he faces, but the 22-year old, right handed hitting first baseman has certainly found his power stroke.
The catcher turned first baseman idled around the Dominican Summer League for three seasons after being signed out of La Romana in the Dominican Republic for the 2012 season. He broke out so to speak last season for the Danville Braves, slashing .319/.340/.412 but hit a mere one home run while striking out 42 times and walking just eight in 204 at bats. Not exactly the bat profile you’d like to see from your starting first baseman.
Castro looked lost in the first half of the season with his promotion to Rome, slashing .181/.209/.458 in the first two months, striking out 25 times and walking twice. Fueled by a red hot August, Castro has turned around his season and is starting to look like a player who could provide some organizational depth for the long haul.
Castro’s past ten games in particular have been amazing as he is hitting .359 with three home runs and 12 RBI. His issues at the plate, which will likely prevent him from any significant big league time without improvement, are still looming as he has struck out eight times and walked none over that same span. Still, his second half has been fun to watch as he has slashed .302/.336/.503 with nine home runs and 40 RBI.
It also seems that Castro may be better in a platoon role as he advances in the ranks as he struggles mightily against lefties. He has hit .176 with just one of his 15 home runs on the season against southpaws, striking out 14 times and walking just twice. His defense has improved at first base as well. Castro won’t be making a jump to the top of the Braves prospect charts in such a deep organization, but he has certainly made you begin to wonder if he can put it together.
Ray Patrick Didder
Every time I have been out to Rome this season, it seems as if Didder is doing something productive. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but the speedy outfielder has come along nicely in his highest level of play in his brief career.
Signed out of Aruba before the 2013 season, Didder started his career as a middle infielder, slowly transitioning to outfielder over three seasons at Rookie Level ball. He showed little power and didn’t seem to use his speed to his advantage as he climbed from DSL to GCL to the Appy League, registering just 26 extra base hits in 515 career at bats, including a goose egg in the home run column. That has all changed this year.
For more on Didder and another big breakout, head on over to Minor League Ball for my full feature by clicking on the link below!