Castro opens eyes with HR, 3-hit night

Braves rookie infielder, 22, could carve out role for 2016

Castro opens eyes with HR, 3-hit night

ATLANTA -- A first glance at Daniel Castro might give the impression that he is either a bat boy or the teenage son of a coach who has provided him entrance to a Major League clubhouse. But those who have watched the baby-faced middle infielder over the past month recognize Castro as somebody who could significantly factor into the Braves' plans next season.

Castro made yet another good impression as he highlighted a three-hit performance with a home run in Friday's 4-0 win over the Cardinals at Turner Field. The 22-year-old infielder has proven productive enough to serve as Atlanta's starting second baseman in 10 of the past 19 games.

"It's nice to see these young guys up here perform because we're evaluating every single day," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after his club won for the sixth time in their past seven home games.

Though Jace Peterson seems to project as Atlanta's primary second baseman again next year, his second-half struggles, combined with Castro's recent success, have at least given the Braves something to think about for the 2016 season.

While Peterson has batted .221 with a .294 on-base percentage since the All-Star break, Castro has recorded multi-hit performances in six of his 19 career starts. Still, even with four three-hit games through his first 92 career plate appearances, Castro has batted just .261 with a .286 on-base percentage.

"He's a nice complementary player," Gonzalez said. "Is he a guy you run out there every single day [throughout the season]? We might see a different guy, but right now, you scratch your head and wonder if this guy can do it, which is a good thing."

Though Castro might still be viewed as a player who provides his greatest value as versatile backup, he certainly made the most of his opportunity on Friday night, when he matched up against left-hander Jaime Garcia, who will likely start one of the Cardinals' first two games in the National League Division Series.

Castro hit a solo home run off Garcia in the Braves' two-run third inning and added a single in the fourth. He capped the productive performance by notching his first career triple off veteran reliever Jonathan Broxton in the eighth inning to drive in a second run.

Castro's RBI triple

"I feel good that I have played well," Castro said. "I'm just going to try to finish that way and hopefully let the rest take care of itself."

Dating back to Spring Training, Castro has shown that he is capable of being a reliable defensive option at either of the middle-infield positions. His offensive potential still remains questionable. Though he has homered twice through the early stages of his Major League career, he went homerless while compiling 400 at-bats with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett this year.

"They've made a couple mistakes on him and he's been able to run people out of the ballpark," Gonzalez said. "He puts the ball in play. He's a nice guy to complement [shortstop Andrelton Simmons] or Peterson."

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.