Luis Castillo was acquired in the offseason in the Cincinnati Reds big move of the winter. The team traded starting pitcher Dan Straily to Miami and got back Castillo, reliever Austin Brice and minor league outfielder Zeke White. In the 2016 season Luis Castillo transitioned into a starting pitcher and had plenty of success, posting a 2.26 ERA in 131.2 innings. He had just 25 walks to go with 103 strikeouts in that span.

The strikeout rate was a tad low for a guy who routinely sits 95+ with his fastball. The then 23-year-old had the stuff to keep hitters off-balance, but wasn’t quite consistent enough with the slider and change up. As I wrote in the offseason, his slider was mostly an average offering, but flashed itself as a plus pitch.

This season he’s out to a great start, making the jump to Double-A Pensacola look easy in the early going. Through three starts he has allowed just three earned in 18.1 innings. That’s good for a 1.96 ERA. He’s allowed just 11 hits and walked three batters. His strikeout rate is up, fanning 17 of the 67 batters faced (25.4%). Over his three starts he’s thrown strikes with 68% of his pitches, an above-average rate when compared to Major Leaguers. He’s also racked up 33 swinging strikes in those three games. That’s a lot of swinging strikes.

Last night he hit 101 MPH on the stadium radar gun in Pensacola, but their stadium gun is notoriously incorrect (in the past, it’s been positioned in a poor spot, which can give invalid readings) – or has been in past seasons. When you hear about numbers like 101, even from guys you know that have hit 100 MPH in the past, I had to check. Unfortunately the 101 was not able to be confirmed, with a reliable source having him topping out at 99 MPH last night. Not that there’s anything wrong with 99, but triple digits always gets that extra attention.

This season the slider has been more consistent, showing itself as an above-average to plus offering more frequently. The change up is still a work in progress and clearly a third pitch for him. It will be key for him in terms of just how good he’ll be in the future. For now, the fastball and slider combination, along with his ability to pound the strikezone is a great start. He’ll probably be able to remain a starter long term without much improvement. However, to reach his full potential the change up will need to keep improving.

10 Responses

  1. Reaganspad

    How hard is it to mix in 25% change ups when you are that dominant?

    Reply
    • Doug Gray

      Hardly anyone throws their 3rd pitch 25% of the time. But, I do think it would be a good idea to set a general “minimum” for number of pitches thrown per outing in the minor leagues – whether it’s working well that day or not.

      Reply
  2. Tom

    If this kid comes up with any kind of repeatable change-up, he’ll be a beast.

    Reply
  3. sultanofswaff

    I’m big on this kid. If he stays on his current trajectory, a September bullpen call-up would be warranted………especially in a playoff hunt! :)

    You almost feel bad for the Marlins that due to the death of Fernandez they were forced to trade for starting pitching. That said, Straily hasn’t been bad, he’s just been his own worst enemy (9 walks in 14 IP).

    Reply
  4. Arnold Ziffle

    If only Feldman and/or Ginnett could bring back such a player at this year’s trade deadline.
    If only the Reds can sign the Cuban OF Luis Robert. This signing might allow the
    Reds to draft a top pitching prospect at #2, and then reap some position players at #32 and #38.
    Tomorrow and this weekend, UNC and SP JB Bukaskas and SS Logan Warmoth play at Pitt.
    McKay and UL are home vs. Duke this weekend.
    Faedo and UF start tonight through Sat. vs. So. Carolina. Faedo and tonight’s game are on ESPNU.
    Lange and LSU play tomorrow thru Sun. at UK in Lexington.

    Reply
  5. wes

    Again, I have liked Straily since he was in Oakland, but the Reds made out great in this trade! I couldn’t believe the negativity fans said about this trade. The got 2 potential big league pitchers for a guy who was never in long term plans. Well done Dick!

    Reply
  6. kevin zook

    if gets that change up like Amir did.. Castillo and Amir 1 n 2 in rotation for long time

    Reply
  7. Pete Bromen

    Curious why you say the radar gun in Pensacola is notoriously inaccurate? I ask because I have season tickets behind the plate and have chatted with the scouts. Last year a Miami Marlins scout told me the gun at Pensacola was the most accurate in the Southern League. Doesn’t mean it’s true it’s just what I was told by a visiting scout.

    BTW I was at the game and saw Castillo pitch. He was consistently 95-97 but I didn’t see the 101.

    Reply
    • Doug Gray

      I’ve never seen the gun be accurate in the past, though last year when I was there, it wasn’t active at all. So maybe last year it was accurate, when it was on. But if so, it means they moved it or started using the Trackman for their velocities but it just wasn’t working on my visit.

      Reply

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