By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Phillips Castillo is making the most of his second go-around in the Northwest League.
The Everett AquaSox outfielder is carrying the Frogs’ offense, and he’s made big strides from his time in Everett last season.
“I think it’s going good,” the 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic said. “It’s better than last year. I learned a lot from last year to put toward this year.”
Last year, Castillo was one of the more interesting prospects on Everett’s roster at the beginning of the season. At 19 years old, he was young for the Northwest League, and he already had two seasons at the rookie level under his belt, including an impressive 2011 season at Peoria of the Arizona League. But Castillo struggled mightily last season at the plate, batting just .183 in 61 games. That resulted in Castillo being returned to Everett this season.
However, so far this season Castillo has made strides toward regaining some buzz as a prospect. Through Everett’s first 14 games he was batting .277 and leading the team in home runs (two), runs batted in (10), slugging percentage (.532) and on-base-plus-slugging -percentage (.918). His 10 RBI were nearly twice as many as anyone else on the team.
Those numbers came from a small sample size that’s subject to fluctuations. But some deeper stats also reinforce the idea Castillo has made improvements at the plate. His walk percentage per plate appearance has jumped from 6.6 percent last season to 8.8 percent this season, a 33 percent increase. His strikeouts have dropped correspondingly, from 28.9 percent last season to 21.0 percent this season, a decrease of 27.3 percent. Those improvements suggest Castillo has gained a greater control of the strike zone.
“He’s a guy who’s been a free swinger,” Everett manager Dave Valle said. “But he’s been more patient and looking for his pitch, recognizing that when he does wait for his pitch he’s doing some damage.”
Said Castillo: “It’s because last year my approach wasn’t too good. This year I did some work and I think fastball, I try to find the fastball. My manager says, ‘If you miss the fastball, it’s no good.’ That’s why I’m hitting much better, because I try to keep within myself.”
Castillo is also benefiting from finding a comfort zone in Everett in his second season with the team.
“I know more of the people and my fans,” Castillo said. “I know the climate and the field. I feel more comfortable there.
“I want to keep on fire, keep my approach the same and keep working hard,” Castillo added. “But my goal at the end is I want to help my team win a championship.”